Another Coquitlam resident involved in an incident with conservation officers and the RCMP during the pursuit and killing of three bears last year has filed a lawsuit against the two organizations, claiming misconduct and/or gross negligence, defamation and a breach of his charter rights.
Tony Faccin, 45, was one of three people arrested by conservation officer Sgt. Todd Hunter July 30, 2019, near Mundy Park in Coquitlam. Sgt. Hunter was pursuing a black bear mother and her two cubs, an incident which attracted the attention of nearby neighbours, according to a lawsuit filed with the Supreme Court of British Columbia Nov. 16. The lawsuit echoes similar allegations brought forward in previous civil claim filed by a neighbour last month.
In a notice of civil claim, Tony Faccin claims he was a bystander for much of Hunter’s pursuit, bringing his children from the front yard into the house when he witnessed “several armed individuals dressed in black running between houses across the street.”
That’s when Faccin claims he left his home and began filming Sgt. Hunter from roughly 15 to 20 feet away. The conservation officer told him to stop filming, which he did and returned home, according to the civil claim.
According to the claim, Sgt. Hunter is alleged to have contacted Coquitlam RCMP, telling them that Faccin obstructed the sergeant in his duties before he “went into an area of bush and killed the three bears.”
RCMP officers arrived, arrested Faccin for the alleged obstruction and handcuffed him in front of his children.
The claim alleges that the RCMP officers failed to corroborate the conservation officer’s allegations with other bystanders who were present, and in arresting him, seized his phone, which contained evidence of his interaction with Sgt. Hunter.
Faccin claims he was asked to unlock the phone and show the video to the RCMP officers present. He did so, only later realizing he had been deprived of his right to speak to counsel beforehand, states the claim.
At that point, an RCMP officer is alleged to have seized the phone out of Faccin’s hand, but not before Faccin quickly re-locked it.
“I think it was just a ploy to get me to unlock my phone,” Faccin told the Tri-City News at the time, an allegation repeated in the claim. “I’m not afraid to show the video. Maybe they are, but I’m not.”
“They acted like I was physically obstructing them from killing [the bears] and that’s not the case at all.”
The RCMP officers then determined Faccin’s alleged conduct was outside of their jurisdiction and transferred custody of Faccin’s phone to Sgt. Hunter. After releasing him, Sgt. Hunter is said to have re-arrested Faccin before releasing him once again on the promise to appear on two charges of obstruction.
Read more about bears in the Tri-Cities:
Coquitlam man sues officers who killed bear family for unlawful detainment, assault
Three arrested in Coquitlam for obstructing capture, killing of bear family
Body cams, more oversight for conservation officers, says group upset over B.C. bear killings
Bear brouhaha: Can cops and conservation officers take your phone? Yes, says this lawyer
Bear tranquilized in Port Coquitlam tree dies after striking the ground
The RCMP officers are named in the claim for allegedly unlawfully detaining Faccin, not offering him access to counsel and infringing upon his right to be free from unreasonable seizure — allegations, that if proven true, would mean a breach of his Charter rights.
The lawsuit also names Insp. Murray Smith — responsible for BCCOS operations in the Lower Mainland — for “defamatory statements” he and Sgt. Hunter later made to the press, indicating that Faccin and two other residents physically stepped between officers and the three bears and that he was “actively interfering with officers.”
Sgt. Hunter is further alleged to have engaged in grossly negligent conduct.
Three months after the July 2019 incident, Faccin went to court arguing the continued detention of his phone would lead to a charter violation because BCCOS was in unlawful possession of the phone.
Crown counsel withdrew the application to keep the phone, and it was returned to Faccin on Nov. 7, 2019. No charges were approved against the Coquitlam man.
In the intervening period, the claim alleges Faccin was subject to public speculation regarding his role in the incident, both on social media and in person. That, notes the claim, has led Faccin to suffer humiliation, discomfort and has impacted his reputation in the community.
The lawsuit alleges Faccin has suffered flashbacks and nightmares as a result of his unlawful detention; he seeks a variety of damages, as well as retractions and apologies for the alleged defamatory statements.
None of the allegations have been proven in a court of law.