City settles lawsuit with assault victim

Obi Ifedi settles lawsuit with City of Ottawa after 2020 incident in which he was hit by bylaw officer

The civil lawsuit was settled last week, though city officials cited confidentiality restrictions and declined to reveal the amount Ifedi will receive.

Author of the article:Aedan Helmer

Apr 25, 2022  

File: Obi Ifedi returns to the public park near his home where he was assaulted by an Ottawa bylaw officer while walking with his young daughter.
File: Obi Ifedi returns to the public park near his home where he was assaulted by an Ottawa bylaw officer while walking with his young daughter. PHOTO BY JULIE OLIVER /Postmedia

Obi Ifedi, the Ottawa father who was punched in the mouth by a bylaw officer during a physical-distancing crackdown in April 2020, has been awarded a cash settlement from the city a little more than two years after the high-profile incident.

The civil lawsuit was settled last week, though city officials cited confidentiality restrictions and declined to reveal the amount Ifedi will receive.

“Confidentiality is a standard feature of settlement agreements and prevents the City of Ottawa from disclosing the specific amount of an individual settlement,” city solicitor David White said in a statement Monday afternoon.

“Legal Services does not publicly identify the cases to which the payments relate to protect both the confidential nature of a settlement, as well as any personal information. As a result, the City is unable to disclose the settlement in the enforcement matter involving a By-law Officer and member of the public in early April 2020. The City of Ottawa takes allegations of improper conduct of City staff extremely seriously and conducts internal investigations, where appropriate, in accordance with the City’s discipline policy.”

Ifedi’s lawyer on the civil action, Lawrence Greenspon, also declined to say how much his client would receive in a payout.

“Between the officer involved being terminated and this settlement, obviously Mr. Ifedi is very pleased that things have resolved in his favour,” Greenspon said in a phone interview.

Ifedi did not immediately return a request for comment.

The bylaw officer had been enforcing temporary rules regarding the use of park space under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, which had taken effect across the city and the province two days earlier in one of the first “zero tolerance” enforcement campaigns of the pandemic.

Ifedi was confronted near Marlene Catterall Park in the Michele Heights neighbourhood and during the altercation, he was struck by the bylaw officer, who was fired four months later following a lengthy and comprehensive multi-agency review.

Ifedi was with his seven-year-old daughter in the park at the time and said he tried to explain to the officer that he had been complying with the posted rules. After being chased and hit, he was then handed a pair of tickets totalling $2,010 for the alleged breach of provincial restrictions.

Those provincial offences were withdrawn following a protracted court process, where Ifedi was represented by defence lawyer David Anber.

Ifedi and Anber said they were “shocked” when a police investigation concluded that Ifedi had been assaulted by the officer, but the matter was resolved without criminal charges. The bylaw officer was instead referred to a pre-charge diversion program as part of the out-of-court resolution.

Mayor Jim Watson called for a full review of the incident amid a public outcry in June 2020.

That review concluded with “no dispute” that the bylaw officer “struck the member of the public…” and that he “engaged in an excessive use of force in the altercation,” according to a memo from Anthony Di Monte, general manager of the city’s emergency and protective services, informing the mayor and council that the bylaw officer had been fired.

“While this is an isolated incident and there is no pattern of this behaviour, an assault against a member of the public in the course of duty is very serious,” Di Monte wrote in the memo.

“The Covid regulations had just been changed and this bylaw officer went a little over the top, to say the least,” Greenspon said. “For whatever reason, he wasn’t charged and he apologized to the police (as part of the pre-charge diversion), but he never apologized to Mr. Ifedi.”

Greenspon said the potential civil file was referred to his office, and he took Ifedi on as a client in June 2020.

“We took it on and it took a long time for those charges to be withdrawn, but once they were, we were able to move ahead with the civil action,” Greenspon said.

Anber, who successfully defenced Ifedi on the provincial offences, said at the time he did not support the City firing the officer and said he would have preferred to see the officer “held accountable” before the courts.

“I would have much rather seen (the officer) keep his job – perhaps after receiving some remedial training – but have to be held accountable within the criminal justice system like any other citizen would be,” said Anber.

The bylaw officer’s termination did nothing to address “the lack of action” by Ottawa police, Anber said at the time.

Ottawa police issued several statements at the time to say the case “met the criteria” for resolution through the pre-charge diversion process.

ahelmer@postmedia.com

  1. COMMENTS
    TMTerence Martin18 HRS AGO ““engaged in an excessive use of force” Do these bylaw officers have the power to detain individuals who refuse to ID or keep walking?1 REPLY 1 1SHAREFLAG11 older replySHOW OLDER REPLIES
  2. LSLouise Stephens17 HRS AGO I am glad that Mr. Ifedi has received some compensation in the civil court for his unjust treatment. However, Mr. Anber is correct that the bylaw officer should have been held accountable by the criminal justice system the way other citizens are. Both Mr. Ifedi and his daughter deserve an apology for the way they were treated, and the citizens of Ottawa deserve transparency rather than a closed-door procedure. 3 3SHAREFLAG
  3. WLWalter Legault14 HRS AGO There is so much about this case that stinks to high heaven; like the fact that an Ottawa Police Services officer assisted in the assault by restraining Ifedi while the by-law enforcement thug punched him, and the fact that Ifedi and his daughter weren’t even in the park at the time, but rather were walking along the side of the road. Of course, the pre-trial diversion the poice wangled for their accomplice is the greatest travesty of all. This is a measure usually used for first-time shoplifters and other summary offences, not deliberate criminal assault by City employees upon a law-abiding member of the public in full view of his innocent child. If the cop involved had been somebody like Montsion, Ifedi might not even be alive today, let alone receiving a settlement.1 REPLY 4 6SHAREFLAG11 older replySHOW OLDER REPLIES
  4. SMSimon MacDonald8 HRS AGO Good, glad this gentleman got a financial settlement. Completely unacceptable what happened. The settlement details should be published though. This is tax payer money. 3 1SHAREFLAG
  5. DMDOUGLAS MASON2 HRS AGO i don’t really care about the outcome , however i strongly disagree with not releasing the $ amount , not only in this case but all . IT’S OUR TAXPAYER MONEY 1 0

Source: Ottawa Citizen

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