...has case put over TORONTO (CP) - A deaf man who was allegedly handcuffed and beaten by a pair of Toronto police officers two years ago has had his case put over until next month, thanks in part to a shortage of available sign-language interpreters.
Peter Owusu-Ansah, a 25-year-old woodworker from Ghana in western Africa, was allegedly beaten in September 2002 after he and a group of hearing-impaired friends were stopped by Toronto police Const. Wayne Taylor and Const. Syed Ali Moosvi. Both were charged with assault, but the trial has been proceeding slowly since January, in part because the court has not provided Owusu-Ansah with an interpreter, said law student Shannon Slattery, who's handling Owusu-Ansah's human-rights complaint.
"The court hasn't made an interpreter available for Peter as a complainant; it has just been interested in (its own) efficiency," Slattery said outside the courthouse Wednesday.
"He's felt very shut out of the process, even though he is the complainant."
Court-appointed sign-language interpreters are available just two days a week, Slattery said. The court is only obliged to provide interpreters in cases where witnesses require the service, not for observers like Owusu-Ansah, she added.
"Obviously we disagree with that."
Officials did track down a volunteer interpreter for Owusu-Ansah and devised a seating arrangement that would better allow him to read lips in order to follow the proceedings.
But the interpreter was only available for a few hours, prompting Ontario Court Justice Paul Robertson to adjourn the proceedings with a promise to ensure Owusu-Ansah had access to an interpreter in the future.
Outside the courthouse, Owusu-Ansah said outside court that he's convinced his lack of hearing was a major factor in the alleged altercation.
"I tell them I am deaf, but they don't believe me," he said through an interpreter. "(The police) just keep talking and talking and do whatever they want."
Police lawyer Gary Clewley said the officers in question released Owusu-Ansah as soon as they realized he was deaf.
"They realized he was hearing-impaired when they drove him away from the scene, (but) Mr. Ansah can speak, and he had a Walkman on," said Clewley, who sarcastically dismissed the idea that police need special training to deal with deaf suspects.
"Why don't we turn all the (police) stations into classrooms, and we'll just train and train until (the officers) drop?"
The case has outraged those who advocate on behalf of hearing-impaired Canadians and prompted calls for police to undergo training in how to handle deaf suspects.
"It is not the first time deaf people have experienced similar police harassment and unacceptable practices," said Gary Malkowski, vice-president of the Canadian Hearing Society.
"Police should be mandated to undergo training in . . . anti-audism."
Owusu-Ansah, who is black, has also said he's been stopped for no reason by police as many as 19 times in recent years.