An SFU alumnus charged after a controversial and violent arrest on Burnaby Mountain a year ago couldn’t get to his trial this week because he’s not vaccinated against COVID-19.
Babakayode (Kayode) Fatoba was pepper-sprayed and Tasered by police in an SFU cafeteria on Dec. 11, 2020.
A Burnaby RCMP officer had responded to a call at around 9 p.m. from SFU security about a man who was refusing to leave the campus, according to police.
Police said security officials had told them a student had made a complaint about the man and that he was at SFU without a mask and contrary to the university’s pandemic safety rules, which only allowed current students on campus at the time.
Inside the cafeteria, a struggle ensued between Fatoba, who is Black, and the officer.
Part of the arrest was captured on video and posted online.
It unleashed a flood of criticism accusing SFU security and the RCMP of racial profiling.
But an independent report ordered by SFU president Joy Johnson concluded there was no evidence racial profiling contributed to the events of that day.
Fatoba was eventually charged with causing a disturbance, obstructing an officer and assaulting an officer.
Police have alleged Fatoba put the officer in a "chokehold" during the arrest.
A four-day trial was scheduled to begin Monday but had to be postponed.
“He attempted to board a flight last Thursday to be here for the trial,” defence lawyer J. Doyle told the court. “He was denied being able to board the flight because he is unvaccinated currently.”
Doyle said Fatoba, who has relocated to Ontario, has provided a “passenger COVID-19 denial form” with his name on it as well as a flight itinerary but not the actual ticket.
Doyle said his client had bought the ticket before airline vaccination rules changed.
Provincial court Judge John Milne added Fatoba also couldn’t have driven here because of flooding that has shut down highways into the Lower Mainland.
Crown prosecutor Patrick Fullerton said he was ready to proceed with the trial but it was unclear when it would be able to go ahead.
“The reality, as I understand it from my friend – and I’m not going to go into a great deal of detail about this – but his vaccination status is not likely to change any time soon,” he said.
Doyle applied to have Fatoba’s trial adjourned so the situation could be sorted out and arrangements made for his client to be present “in some capacity.”
Milne asked whether the lawyers would arrange a virtual appearance, and Doyle said they “would explore that.”
“He certainly intends to be here and wants to be here to answer the charges,” Doyle said of Fatoba.
Fullerton didn't disagree.
“He certainly hasn’t shirked his duty to attend, I don’t think,” he said. “He relocated to his home province and then circumstances outside of his control changed.”
Milne agreed to adjourn the trial.
Fatoba’s next court date was set for Jan. 10 to schedule new trial dates.
When the trial does happen, Doyle said he’ll be bringing a “lengthy Charter application” alleging Fatoba’s rights were violated during the December 2020 incident.
Fullerton, meanwhile, said the Crown won’t be seeking a jail sentence if Fatoba is found guilty on any or all of the charges.