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PAM FRAMPTON: Andrew Abbass — his fight begins anew

Andrew Abbass finally has the court ruling he was waiting nearly 10 months for, which says there was no justification for his six-day detention at a Corner Brook psychiatric facility in 2015. — Leo Abbass photo
Andrew Abbass is steeling himself for a court fight. He’s suing for compensation for having spent six days unlawfully detained in 2015. — Leo Abbass photo

Both the provincial government and the RNC will fight his lawsuit against them; response pending from Western Health

“There is no crueller tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.” — Montesquieu (1689-1755)

Andrew Abbass is girding for another battle in the courts.

Nearly four years ago, he was unlawfully detained at a Corner Brook psychiatric facility for six days. In December 2018, he launched a lawsuit seeking redress, naming the provincial government, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and Western Health Care Corp. as defendants.

On Friday, both the second and third defendants (the RNC and the provincial government) signalled their intentions to contest the suit.

Abbass’s lawyer, Tony St. George, said the first defendant — Western Health — was expected to file a statement of defense Friday afternoon, but had not done so as this column was being written to make deadline.

Abbass isn’t surprised by the response, nor by how long it was in coming.

After all, more than three years went by before the courts ruled that his detainment was unlawful, so he’s used to long waits.

He’s also tenacious and says he’s confident in the worth of what he’s fighting for.

“I’ve known that it’s going to take forever for a long time,” he said. “I’m up against the cult of authority. … I’m not willing to settle for anything else but to see it through to the end. It’s not just for me, it’s for my son, his mom.”

Abbass was taken from his Corner Brook home by police on April 7, 2015 after tweeting angrily about the fatal shooting of Donald Dunphy by an RNC officer two days before.

After two physicians at Western Memorial Regional Hospital consulted with Abbass briefly — and with no diagnosis of mental illness rendered — certification papers were signed that would keep him under lock and key until April 13.

Justice Brian J. Furey of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador later concluded there was no evidence that justified holding Abbass involuntarily.

His lawyer says that fact is not in dispute.

“It’s not like no one hauled me off to a room and said, ‘You’re staying here for six days.’ I mean, we live in the real world, not some imaginary world where no one is responsible." — Andrew Abbass

“It was clear that there was some wrongdoing done to Mr. Abbass,” said St. George, who’s with Gittens and Associates. “The question is how to rectify this now. Whether someone will step up or step forward and accept some blame remains to be seen. But it doesn’t make up for lost time.”

Abbass’s lawsuit does not put a dollar figure on the compensation he would like to receive, though he’s said a million dollars for each day he was detained does not strike him as unreasonable. He’d also like the record of his detainment removed from his medical file, since it continues to stigmatize and overshadow his life as he tries to put the pieces back together. And he’d like the authorities involved to apologize for having wrongfully deprived him of his liberty.

As of this writing, there have been no public words of regret.

“The courts have already acknowledged (there’s) responsibility for this,” says Abbass, who lives in Happy Valley-Goose Bay now. “It’s not like no one hauled me off to a room and said, ‘You’re staying here for six days.’ I mean, we live in the real world, not some imaginary world where no one is responsible.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be properly compensated. I can’t give my (three-and-a-half-year-old) son back the first few years of his life. I can’t undo the trauma that I went through; his mom went through; that my family and friends went through.”

With responses finally trickling in from the authorities named in his lawsuit, though, Abbass says at least he feels like there is some movement; that something is beginning — though he knows it could take years to work through.

St. George agrees. “This is the first step in the process now,” he said, acknowledging it’s far from the end of things. “It means the matter will proceed through the courts.”

Abbass calls the response from the government “the ultimate bureaucratic stoneface.”

“It said on my certification, ‘This was ordered,’” he said.

“Well, why was it ordered? And by whom?”

Related columns by this author

PAM FRAMPTON: What price liberty? Andrew Abbass sues for damages

PAM FRAMPTON: Abbass case shining light in dark corners

Pam Frampton is a columnist whose work is published in The Western Star and The Telegram. Email Twitter: pam_frampton

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