VANCOUVER - Almost two years after picking up a can of pepper spray and aiming it at protesters outside the APEC summit in Vancouver, RCMP Staff Sgt. Hugh Stewart is about to deliver something else: his side of the story.
CBC INDEPTH: After APEC
On Monday, Stewart is scheduled to take the stand at the RCMP Public Complaints Commission inquiry into the crackdown against APEC demonstrators.
The unedited videotape of how he cleared the motorcade route for APEC leaders on Nov. 25, 1997, has been broadcast repeatedly on national television.
"You have one opportunity to move up that road and and clear it off or you will be arrested, " he warned. "I am going to use force, whatever force I deem necessary."
"I do not intend to fool around. I intend to clear this road, and I intend to clear it now, " Stewart said, before opening fire with a small can that was soon to make big headlines.
From the fog of his pepper spray that followed, the protesters say the issues are clear.
They argue that Stewart overreacted. They also claim the Mounties were acting on orders from the Prime Minister's Office, something Jean Chretien has denied.
Last week, telephone transcripts of police phone conversations were obtained that suggest Ottawa was involved in security matters at the summit.
The transcripts suggest the Prime Minister's Office did not want the presence of demonstrators to embarrass some of the Asian leaders attending the summit.
One of the protesters who was hit by the pepper spray, David Wolinetz, described the pain as "torture".
Today, Wolinetz says he would like to ask Stewart one question: "If he had, you know, the chance to go back, would he do it differently or (does he think) he acted entirely appropriately?"
Until now, Stewart has always refused to talk about the case, saying only that he will answer all questions under oath at the inquiry.
His testimony is expected to last at least four days.
VANCOUVER - The TV images of student protesters being pepper-sprayed at the 1997 APEC summit were analyzed Tuesday at an inquiry into the incident.
The inquiry is looking into complaints about the RCMP's actions at the summit. The CBC camera operator who ended up in the line of fire testified Tuesday. Robb Douglas was also pepper-sprayed as he photographed the event.
The well-known video showed Staff Sgt. Hugh Stewart telling a gathering of protesters to move from a road. Less than 20 seconds later, he began using pepper spray.
Stewart has repeatedly refused to explain his conduct. While cross-examining Douglas Tuesday, Stewart's lawyer, Jim Williams, called the video damning. Then there was this exchange:
Williams: "You haven't speculated why that happened?"
Williams: "It wouldn't be a very effective way of preventing a video record?
Douglas: "Well it prevented me shooting."
Williams: "It also created one of the most damning pieces of video footage in recent time hasn't it?"
Stewart's lawyer also revealed the RCMP officer claims he apologized to Douglas after the spraying, in the presence of an ambulance attendant.
Douglas said: "If there was an apology I didn't hear an apology, but an apology after an assault does not equal acceptable behaviour in my mind."
Once again, Stewart and his lawyer would not comment Tuesday. The RCMP officer will get his day at the hearing. He is scheduled to testify in August.
Also Tuesday, one of the protesters testified there was no reason for police to strip-search female demonstrators who were arrested.
Annette Muttray says she was one of the women who was asked to disrobe for a search. Muttray says she was arrested without explanation after asking a police officer if he had seen one of her friends, a fellow protester.
She says she was somewhat embarrased by the experience, which occurred before a female police officer and female guard in a closed room.
She was later released.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien seems determined to insult those critical of police state policies in Indonesia by showing that dictatorship how a police state is really run!
Here he addresses a Dec. 8 banquet of well-healed supporters. If you don't laugh at my jokes I'll break your heads with a baseball bat.
Meanwhile the cops outside in full riot gear did break a few heads. Not funny, Prime Minister.
inJusticebusters received the following appeal:
". . .with your interest in human rights,. . .this might interest you. While the Inquiry has been suspended, it will likely resume. Many of the students and others involved would like to pursue civil actions." David White, THE GREEN PARTY OF CANADA E-mail: email@example.com
The APEC demonstrators deserve justice and they should pursue it. We encourage them to file their own civil suits and save the money it would cost to hire lawyers. The students have shown themselves to be articulate and persuasive. They also know how to handle the media. Why should they now turn control of their case over to lawyers who have a record of muzzling their clients and are generally too friendly with prosecutors?
Does justice in Canada really have to be so expensive? It is still only $75 to file a claim. Take the fear driven adrenaline that comes from turning your lives over to other people and turn it into the rush of positive energy that comes from writing the truth!