THERIAULT CONVICTION UPHELD IN DAFONTE MILLER CASE: Court of Appeal Breaks New Ground in Recognizing Anti-Black Systemic Racism in the Justice System
“The current moment of reckoning with respect to systemic racism in Canada is long overdue.” – Ontario Court of Appeal, R v Theriault, 2018 ONCA 517, para 212
Toronto, ON —
Today, the Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of Constable Michael Theriault and upheld his conviction for the assault of Dafonte Miller. The Court of Appeal also upheld Cst. Theriault’s nine-month sentence, as ordered by the trial judge Justice Di Luca. Mr. Miller, his mother Leisa Lewis, and legal counsel Julian Falconer and Asha James held a press conference to discuss the Appeal court’s findings.
At the press conference, Mr. Miller and Ms. Lewis both spoke about the importance of finding closure on this chapter of the process, with Mr. Theriault’s conviction now upheld. They also thanked their supporters, while calling on Canada’s police services to work with communities of colour to address the systemic racism that remains persistent and widespread in policing.
Counsel Julian Falconer drew attention to the key findings of the Appeal Court about the extent of systemic racism in policing, including the over-policing of Black people and disproportionate incidents of violence during interactions with the police. Mr. Falconer highlighted the Court’s observation that “the matter may have unfolded differently had the first responders arrived at a call late one winter evening and observed a black man dressed in socks with no shoes, claiming to be a police officer, asking for handcuffs while kneeling on top of a significantly injured white man.” (2021 ONCA 517, para 144).
Co-counsel Asha James echoed Mr. Falconer’s sentiments, pointing to the long history of police violence against Black people, notably the deaths of Lester Donaldson (shot and killed by Toronto Police in 1988) and the recent R v Le, 2019 SCC 34 decision, involving the arbitrary detention of a young Black man by Toronto Police. Ms. James emphasized the reality that communities of colour continue to live in fear of police interactions, and that Canada is not immune to this phenomenon that also plagues the United States.
The civil claim filed by the Miller Family against the Toronto Police and Durham Police remains ongoing.
For the full judgment in R v Theriault, 2021 ONCA 517, see here: Judgment July 19 2021
For key extracts of the Appeal Court’s findings on systemic racism and policing, see slide deck here: Miller Press Conference – Systemic Extracts of 2021 ONCA 517 Decision
Further details can be found in the enclosed Press Advisory: Press Advisory COA Decision. July 19 2021
For Mr. Miller’s Statement of Claim in his pending civil suit, click here: Amended Statement of Claim Feb 14 2019