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Hearing for Ottawa Detective Grus Continues Despite Lawyers Withdrawing Motion to Remove Prosecutor

OTTAWA—At the disciplinary hearing for Constable Helen Grus, an Ottawa Police Service (OPS) detective accused of discreditable conduct after investigating the vaccination status of the mothers of deceased infants, defence lawyers withdrew a motion calling for the removal of a prosecutor for misconduct and a conflict of interest.

“We are really much focused on having Detective Grus come here on May 27 and start her defence. With that being stated, we would like to withdraw our motion to remove Vanessa Stewart as prosecutor on a without prejudice basis,” said defence lawyer Bath-Sheba van den Berg on March 25.

Hearing Officer Chris Renwick allowed Ms. van den Berg to withdraw the motion without prejudice, which means plaintiffs will be allowed to re-file the charges or alter the claim later in the proceedings.

Const. Grus, a detective with the OPS sexual assault and child abuse unit investigating child abuse and neglect, faces a charge of discreditable conduct for allegedly conducting an “unauthorized project” between June 2020 and January 2022. Const. Grus investigated the sudden deaths of nine Ottawa children, allegedly accessing OPS files and contacting the coroner’s office to learn the COVID-19 vaccination status of the parents to look for an association between the two.

Const. Grus is also alleged to have contacted the father of a deceased infant on Jan. 30, 2022, to inquire into the COVID-19 vaccination status of his wife, without notifying the lead detective on that case. While Const. Grus was suspended without pay in February 2022, she was ordered to return to work with restrictions at an OPS internal hearing in October 2022.

Potential Conflict of Interest

The lawyers for Const. Grus had intended to introduce the motion to remove Ms. Stewart for conflict of interest because her sister-in-law is OPS Detective Renee Stewart, who was cross-examined during the hearing.

The motion also accused Ms. Stewart of misconduct for mentioning convicted murderer and former Royal Canadian Air Force Colonel Russel Williams when cross-examining Ottawa Police Service Sergeant Major Peter Danyluk about Ms. Grus’s behaviour. Ms. Stewart had suggested to the witness that “people who appear calm can make bad decisions,” and brought up footage of Colonel Williams being interrogated by a police officer shortly after his arrest in 2010.

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Ms. van den Berg said the news that the prosecution would be led by Jessica Barrow and that Ms. Stewart would be relegated to co-counsel was a “form of relief” that mitigated some of the conflict of interest concerns. Ms. van den Berg also said she was mindful of delays to the trial and wanted Ms. Grus to begin her defence in May.

Ms. Barrow said she took issue with the defence wanting to withdraw the motion without prejudice, arguing this would be akin to “hanging the proverbial sword over Ms. Stewart’s head,” which would also cause delays. Mr. Renwick said he would allow the “flexibility” for the issue to be brought up again if new information was introduced.
Mr. Renwick did not make a decision on whether Ms. Grus would be allowed to cite OPS internal documents in her defence. He previously told the hearing on Jan. 11 that he could review the documents until a decision was made on whether to remove Ms. Stewart.

Issues With Seating

Around 40 visitors crowded the police station in Kanata in support of Const. Grus, but because there was not enough seating to allow everyone into the hearing room, around half were forced to wait in the lobby. Several visitors were upset because the OPS was threatening to tow vehicles parked in the building’s visitor parking spaces, one of whom raised the issue with Mr. Renwick before the hearing began.

At one point, a man from the lobby barged into the room while the trial was in session and served Mr. Renwick with a paper notifying him that he had violated the Nuremberg Code, a set of ethical research principles for human experimentation. He was removed by several police officers and the hearing went into recess.

Ms. van den Berg raised concerns about the public being unable to view the hearings, claiming that the open court principle also applies to police disciplinary proceedings. She floated the options of opening up doors to the lobby so the audience could hear the proceedings, finding another larger venue, or livestreaming the hearings using Microsoft Teams.

Mr. Renwick rejected those options, claiming the trial had already faced delays and that high tensions among members of the public interested in the case could cause further interruptions. “I will not and shall not have myself interrupted or this tribunal intimidated,” he said.

However, at the end of the hearing, Mr. Renwick said he would work with the OPS to attempt to secure a larger venue or allow more members of the public to view the proceedings. The trial is expected to return on May 27.

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