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Blogger fights traffic ticket

Miranda Scotland
Northern News Services
Published Friday, May 25, 2012

After two months, four court dates and two traffic ticket amendments a Yellowknife blogger's fight against a ticket he got for passing a protest in his truck continues.

NNSL photo/graphic

For the past two months Yellowknife blogger George Lessard has been fighting a traffic ticket he received after he passed a protest in his truck back in March. - Miranda Scotland/NNSL photo

George Lessard was issued a traffic ticket while he was covering a demonstration about the robo-call scandal on March 11 for his blog.

On that day Lessard was stopped by a municipal enforcement officer who, after an argument with Lessard, placed him in the back of his municipal enforcement vehicle. Meanwhile, another officer jumped in Lessard's truck and took it to city hall where Lessard was given a $75 fine for overtaking a vehicle improperly.

The following day the officers amended the ticket to driving without due care and attention and then changed it again on May 15 to unsafe movement of a vehicle.

Lessard is expected to dispute the latest version of the ticket in traffic court on June 12 in Yellowknife. It will be his fifth court date regarding this incident.

"What I need to do with (the officers) in court is get them to make it clear to court why they changed their mind now (twice)," Lessard said.

"Only one thing occurred, yet there are three different interpretations of what occurred here."

According to Lessard, he was parked by the post office on Franklin Avenue on the day of the demonstration to get video of the protesters.

Once they passed him he used the left-hand lane to drive in front of the crowd and was quickly stopped by a red light.

As he sat there the protesters and a municipal enforcement officer approached his truck from behind, the officer knocked on his window and asked for his driver's licence. Lessard said the officer looked at it and told him to drive to city hall and wait for him there.

"I replied to the officer, 'yes, officer I wish to do that. I will do that if you give me back my licence so I can drive with my licence because as you well know it's illegal to drive without a licence,'" Lessard recounted, adding that soon after the municipal officer put him into the back of the municipal enforcement car and asked another officer to drive Lessard's truck to city hall.

Lessard said that for him the incident has raised two issues. "There's one and that's the ticket," he said.

"Then there is the other one with the actions of the officers during all this. I've been told that as far as their actions are concerned I can go to small claims court."

According to Lessard, lawyers have told him that the officers were in the wrong when they detained him without reading him his rights and taking his vehicle without proper procedure.

When he's done fighting the traffic ticket Lessard plans to take the issue to court.

"I want a public apology, a public admittance of wrongdoing by the officers and corrective measures to be done by city hall," he said.

Lessard has faced roadblocks in his case against the traffic ticket. At his first court date Lessard, who is representing himself, requested full disclosure, which requires the officers to provide him with the camera footage from the officer's cars and the traffic cameras.

Lessard was provided with only one video but after he protested the officers gave him another three discs, he said.

He also asked for a McNeil disclosure, which would give him access to police records relating to the findings of misconduct by officers.

Lessard said the judge, however, told him the trial would have to be bumped up to territorial court if he wanted those documents.

Mayor Gord Van Tighem said he was unable to comment on the situation given that it is currently before the courts.

"He's questioning it all. He'll get his answer when he talks to the justice of the peace or the court," Van Tighem said.

Still, Lessard said he's not backing down on either issue.

"If this happened to me how many other people has it happened to? And because they don't know what their rights are they're not concerned," he said, adding he is fighting for other Yellowknife residents and for himself.

"I'm 60 years old, if I pay a ticket like that and admit guilt right away what's my insurance going to do about it? Maybe my insurance is going to go up ... It may go up to the point where I can't have my vehicle anymore. I'm handicapped, I need my vehicle to drive around in," he said.

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