Vancouver mayor, police apologize to retired B.C. judge for wrongful detainment

Selwyn Romilly

VANCOUVER — The mayor of Vancouver says he is “appalled” that police officers wrongfully detained and handcuffed a retired British Columbia Supreme Court justice out for a walk last Friday morning.

Kennedy Stewart says in a statement he reached out to apologize to Justice Selwyn Romilly, the first Black person appointed to the court.

Vancouver Police Sgt. Steve Addison says in a statement officers were dispatched around 9:15 a.m. following reports of a man kicking, punching and spitting at people along the seawall near English Bay.

He says officers patrolling the area noticed a man resembling the description of the suspect and “briefly detained him to investigate,” handcuffing him given the violent nature of the reported incidents.

Addison says the man was compliant and identified himself as a retired judge, and the handcuffs were “quickly removed.”

He says a patrol supervisor has since offered an apology.

“The man was allowed to proceed when it became obvious that he was not the suspect and had done nothing wrong,” he says.

Addison says the suspect was described as a “dark-skinned man” around 40 to 50 years old — decades younger than Romilly.

The correct suspect was taken to jail after officers found him around the same time in the same area, he says.

Stewart says he has contacted the police department’s chief and board members, and the board will review the incident.

“All of our institutions are based on colonialism and as such, are systemically racist,” including the city and police department, he says.

Romilly was born in Trinidad and Tobago and came to Vancouver to study at the University of British Columbia, where he graduated from the Peter A. Allard School of Law in 1966.

He was appointed as a judge in 1974, and in 1995 was elevated to the B.C. Supreme Court,