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Human rights organizations to intervene in lawsuit against Toronto-area cops that killed Ont. father

Two human rights organizations and Canada’s public broadcaster will intervene in Peel police’s legal battle to keep the identities of the officers involved in the 2020 death of Mississauga father Ejaz Choudry off the public record.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association (CMLA) and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) have been granted intervenor status in the civil lawsuit launched by Choudry’s family, according to an endorsement signed by Judge Robert Centa on Nov. 16.

Choudry, who had schizophrenia, was fatally shot by police inside his Mississauga apartment on the evening of June 20, 2020 after his daughter called paramedics for assistance. He had not taken his medication, she reported, and was in crisis.

The officers involved in the incident were cleared by Ontario’s police watchdog in 2021.

A lawsuit, filed by Choudry’s family two years later, claims Peel Regional Police, Chief Nishan Duraiappah, and the five officers involved allowed a “straightforward mental health call” to turn into a “high-risk tactical operation” that ultimately resulted in the father of four’s death. It is these civil proceedings, and the subsequent public court records produced, in which police have filed a motion requesting a publication ban and anonymity order that would prevent anyone from knowing who they are.

According to the motion, publishing the officers’ identities would put them and their families at risk.

When reached for comment Monday, Peel Regional Police declined to speak on the matter while it was before the courts. In its Statement of Defence, Peel police denied any wrongdoing in Chaudry’s death. Officers were met by an armed man who threatened them and non-lethal measures to apprehend him had been unsuccessful, they said.

Thursday’s decision grants each the CCLA, the MCLA, and the CBC 15 minutes to make their arguments against the motion in front of Judge Centa at an April hearing.

“This case, in particular, struck us as important because of the accountability concerns that it involves,” Shakir Rahim, director of the criminal justice program at the  CCLA told CTV News Toronto Monday.

The CCLA will defend the open court principle at the hearing, Rahim said, arguing that the names of the officers involved be published.

“We know that there is systemic racism in policing, that there are serious concerns around how police treat people with mental health issues, both of which this litigation bears upon,” Rahim said. “That’s just one of the instances where we think the open court principle particularly has to be defended.”

It’s uncommon for public servants to have their names kept from the record, Rahim explained.

In this case, the officers argued their right to safety outweighs the public’s right to open court documents. Within sworn affidavits, they said individuals have threatened their safety and to release their addresses. The officers also referred to other cases of police shootings where individuals displayed ‘wanted’ posters featuring their names and likenesses of other officers.

Rahim, on the other hand, argues that releasing the officers’ names is in line with procedure and allows citizens to pursue “appropriate” avenues of accountability.

“For example, if there was another individual who was also involved with these offices, the public knowledge of their names could help them to come forward,” he said.

The motion will be heard on April 9, 2024.

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