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Supreme Court sides with woman in escalator-handrail case

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada says police stepped over the line when they fined a Quebec woman for refusing to hold onto an escalator handrail.

Bela Kosoian was in a subway station in the Montreal suburb of Laval in 2009 when a police officer told her to respect a pictogram with the instruction, “hold the handrail.”

Kosoian replied that she did not consider the image, which also featured the word “Careful,” to be an obligation, declined to hold the handrail and refused to identity herself.

Officers detained Kosoian for about 30 minutes before letting her go with two tickets — one for $100 for disobeying a pictogram and another for $320 for obstructing the work of an inspector.

She was acquitted of the infractions in Montreal municipal court in 2012 and subsequently filed a $45,000 lawsuit against the Montreal Transit Corp., the City of Laval and one of the officers, Fabio Camacho.

The Supreme Court says a reasonable police officer in Camacho’s shoes would not have considered refusing to hold the handrail an offence, that Kosoian was entitled to refuse an unlawful order, and that she’s entitled to $20,000 in damages.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 29, 2019.