A Vancouver man who wound up with broken bones after a violent confrontation with an anti-gay street preacher is suing the city and the police for failing to protect him by enforcing the law.
In a B.C. Supreme Court notice of civil claim filed last week, Justin Morissette says authorities were well aware of the hateful proclamations of the man who allegedly attacked him in the city's West End in August — but they were "wilfully blind" to the danger of the man's "anti-social" behaviour.
Morissette is also suing Dorre Shepherd Love, the street preacher facing aggravated assault charges in relation to the incident, as well as Christ's Forgiveness Ministries.
Jim Hanson, Morisette's lawyer, says his client suffered two broken leg bones as well as a dislocated knee. But his main goal in bringing the lawsuit is to send a message.
"First and foremost he wants to set a precedent that this type of behaviour is anti-social behaviour, it's hate speech and it shouldn't be tolerated," said Hanson.
"From our point of view, the city has a duty to protect this community and other communities from this type of directed hate speech and antagonism."
West End 'purposely selected'
None of the individuals or entities named in the lawsuit have filed responses to Morissette's claims and none of the allegations have been proven in court.
Morissette claims Love, who is also known as Dorre Strother, began to "harangue passersby" with anti-LGBTQ rhetoric using an amplified public address system at various places around the West End in July.
"Strother purposely selected the West End for his efforts in order to provoke hostile reaction from members of the LGBTQ therein; to provoke supportive reaction from passersby who might already be hostile to the LGBTQ community of the West End and to incite general public disorder," the claim reads.
The lawsuit claims the city and police warned Strother that his actions could result in arrest, and that he was — in fact — arrested on July 14, 2020.
Morissette claims Strother told police he would not be deterred and that he planned to continue preaching.
Things came to a head on Aug. 22, when Morissette claims he was disturbed by the sound of several street preachers.
He has previously told the CBC he approached the men and tried to turn down the volume on the sound system. He claims that one man jumped on his back and another put a leg behind his and wrenched his body until the bones snapped.
'Not lawful' to stand and spew hate
In the lawsuit, Morissette claims Strother was acting in the name of the ministry, which he claims is vicariously liable for the street preacher's actions.
He claims the city failed to police the location properly and failed to enforce public safety protocols.
Morissette claims police failed to properly investigate Strother and to warn West End residents and the LGBTQ community about his intention to keep preaching hate even after his arrest.
"They could have enforced the laws against disturbing the peace. This man was a nuisance. He made the homes around that site unlivable due to his persistent haranguing on his microphone and they should have enforced their laws and ensured that this type of thing didn't continue," Hanson said.
"It's not lawful to stand on the corner and spew hate speech toward the LGBTQ community or any other community."
The City of Vancouver said they had not yet been served with the lawsuit. In an email, a representative of Christ Forgiveness Ministries said his organization had nothing to do with the "Justin Morissette situation."
Love's next appearance in provincial court is on March 10.
In a YouTube video, Love has said he was one of the preachers, but claimed he did nothing wrong.
"I was assaulted," Love said in the video. "A gentleman took my mic out of my hands and tried to get away with it."
Morissette has admitted to taking the microphone, but said he did not attack anyone.
About the Author
Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.
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