Episode 6: The Handrail’s Tale

Imagine being arrested and fined for not holding an escalator handrail — unfortunately for Bela Kosoian, this happened in Canada!

The Montréal Municipal Court acquitted Kosoian and found that not holding the handrail was not an offence.  Yet, Kosoian’s attempts to sue for her wrongful arrest have been unsuccessful – which is why she is taking her case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

In this episode, learn about:

  • The story of Bela Kosoian, the woman who was arrested in Québec in 2009 for not holding an escalator handrail
  • How and why Bela Kosoian sued for her wrongful arrest
  • Why the Québec Court of Justice and the Québec Court of Appeal ruled that Bela Kosoian was not entitled to damages
  • Damages: the kind of damages being sought by Kosoian
  • Damages: the case of Cameron Ward, the lawyer who sued the City of Vancouver after the police wrongfully arrested and strip-searched him because they thought he might throw a pie at the Prime Minister


On November 29, 2019, after this episode was released, the Supreme Court of Canada allowed Bela Kosoian’s appeal.  It ruled that the police officer had no legal justification to arrest Kosoaian and awarded her $20,000 in damages.

Supreme Court of Canada decision (English version)

CTV News article “Why the handrail verdict matters”

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iHeartRADIO article that includes the pictogram referred to in this episode

Toronto Star article about Bela Kosoian and her case

CTV News coverage about Bela Kosian’s case


2 thoughts on “Episode 6: The Handrail’s Tale

  1. Rich James

    The real story is the application of non-existent law. The Court of Appeal majority has made a decision that would expand police powers. And who is to say that this does not apply for Charter cases in general? That a mistake of law by an officer means that an arbitrary detention and violation of s. 9 of the Charter really is not? The Court of Appeal majority ran afoul of a slew of judgements: Chartier v Attorney General 1979, Chaput v Romain 1955, Lamb v Benoit 1959… on the police issue specifically. However, to permit mistakes of law by police in a civil context means that it applies to the Charter as well since Beliveau v St Jacques links the two closely… and Aubry v Vice-Versa 1998 states that when a protected right is violated that is a fault. If the “reasonableness standard” is applied for illegal arrest, then it must therefore apply to all other such cases, hence cancelling out that judgement. It is ironic though to see Laval refer to a judgement they are trying to obliterate (unwittingly) in its quest to defeat Kosoian… that is the case of Sharma that states that police powers do not include applying “apparent offences”.

  2. Rich James

    I was unaware that the trial judge in municipal court rejected Camacho’s version so unequivocally. Apparently, this was submitted as evidence in the civil trial. Yet none of the judges mention it at all. That is an error. A judge must consider the findings of previous judges that decided certain matters. There is a contradictory judgement, with the civil judge preferring Camacho’s version and the penal judge condemning his version as dishonest. Despite the reasonable doubt standard in the penal trial this unequivocal finding is very important and that the civil judge refused to consider it is important.

    What of the shifting reasons to deny Kosoian? The first judge: “How dare Ms Kosoian think she knows the law better than a cop? What arrogance, what insolence!”. The Court of Appeal majority: “Poor cops should not be expected to know the law. It is far too much to ask. It cannot be a fault to apply incorrect law.” They also mangled Hill v Hamilton-Wentworth to permit mistakes of law… which Schrager points out is utter nonsense… the reasonableness standard applies ONLY to assessing FACTS… There is no “reasonableness standard” for questions of law like this one. It is an obligation of results. That is because rights are extinguished otherwise. Aubry v Vice-Versa 1998 states that the simple violation of a right is a fault irrespective of any reasonableness standard. If they rule against Kosoian it would upend Charter law completely as no more would s. 9 violations be found if the cop is ignorant of the law.

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