Nicholas Mcleod v. Mount Royal University

The JCCF represented Nicholas McLeod in his court action against Mount Royal University (“MRU”).

On February 19, 2013, Nicholas was peacefully distributing pro-life literature on the MRU campus when he was confronted by MRU security guard Jeff Beddome, who ordered Nicholas to stop immediately, because Beddome considered Nicholas’ literature to be “offensive.”

Nicholas initially refused to stop distributing his pamphlets, because he was familiar with the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench ruling in R. v. Whatcott. That case involved a man charged with trespassing for peacefully distributing literature at the University of Calgary (“U of C”). U of C security guards arrested the man because there had been a complaint about the content of his flyers. The Court threw out the trespassing charges, finding that the Charter right to freedom of expression protected all persons, including non-students, who chose to distribute literature peacefully on a university campus.

Beddome called in more security guards, who together forced Nicholas to the ground, hand-cuffed him, and confined him to a small room for several hours, with his hands still cuffed behind his back throughout this time. Nicholas video-recorded the incident on his cell phone, which the security guards confiscated after handcuffing Nicholas. One of the MRU guards, Mr. Shannon Courtorielle, removed the SD memory card from Nicholas’ cell phone. The only evidence that could show that MRU’s security guards behaved appropriately (or that Nicholas behaved inappropriately) was on the SD memory card. But that vital evidence conveniently went missing.

The MRU security guards apparently believed – contrary to the Whatcott court ruling – that they had the authority to determine which ideas can and cannot be disseminated on campus.  They also believed – incorrectly – that they had the right to arrest and detain someone who is not committing any crime.  And one of them had no qualms about stealing a memory card from a cell phone, so as to destroy the evidence of the guards’ behaviour against Nicholas.

Courtorielle was later charged criminally for theft by the Calgary Police Service. Mr. Courtorielle has avoided a criminal record by admitting in court to having taken Nicholas’ SD memory card, and entering the “Alternative Measures Program” through which first-time offenders like Courtorielle can perform community service, if they admit to having done the act that forms the basis of the criminal offense.

Nicholas asked MRU to apologize for its security guards’ behaviour, to change its policies to recognize free expression rights on campus, and to provide appropriate compensation for injuries suffered.

In spite of the clear court ruling in Whatcott and one of its own security guards admitting wrongdoing, MRU initially responded by asserting that there would be no apology, no changes to MRU policies, no compensation, and no further conversation.

Nicholas was left with no realistic option other than commencing a court action against MRU and its security guards, which he did.

In January 2015, the court action settled with MRU president Dr. David Docherty apologizing to Nicholas for the behaviour of MRU security guards, their unnecessary use of force, the unlawful detention, and the violation of Charter rights.  In his letter of apology, Dr. Docherty stated that “supplemental training will be conducted to ensure that community officers understand the interaction between the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and their duties in maintaining a safe campus environment.”

 

In the News

Court Documents