Black Calgary activist handed 30-day jail term for assaulting off-duty sheriff

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Black Calgary activist Taylor McNallie must serve a 30-day jail sentence, the same punishment handed to the city police officer who body-slammed a handcuffed woman that McNallie was protesting against.

But unlike fired Calgary Police Service Const. Alex Dunn, McNallie will actually have to serve time behind bars, Justice Peter Barley ruled Monday.

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Barley sentenced McNallie to serve her sentence on weekends, and said she could begin her term the first weekend of the New Year.

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Dunn was ordered, on appeal, to serve 30 days, but Justice Nancy Dilts said because of the passage of time and the fact he had completed his original 30-day conditional sentence, she judicially stayed her ruling sparing him any jail time.

McNallie was the leader of a nearly two-week protest outside the Calgary Courts Centre in August 2021, decrying Dunn’s original, non-custodial term.

On Aug. 12, 2021, she got into an altercation with off-duty sheriff Elena Cunningham, during which she struck the victim with the megaphone she was using during the protest.

Defence counsel Chad Haggerty had argued in October it would be unjust to punish McNallie more harshly than the disgraced officer whose conduct she was shining a light on.

Former Calgary police Const. Alex Dunn leaves court on Oct. 28, 2020. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

Haggerty suggested a conditional discharge would have been a more appropriate punishment.

But Crown prosecutor James Pickard suggested a 90-day term, the maximum duration for which an intermittent sentence could be ordered.

In his written decision, Barley noted Haggerty raised the anti-Black racism McNallie has experienced as a mitigating factor for his client.

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And the Calgary Court of Justice judge agreed it was a factor he needed to consider.

“The racism experienced by the accused is relevant to my consideration of an appropriate sentence. The accused was protesting racism at the time of these incidents and I accept that the atmosphere was tense,” Barley said in his written ruling.

“This . . . might explain, but not justify, the accused’s lashing out at the off-duty sheriff. I accept that she did not set out to hit the other woman.”

Barley had earlier also convicted McNallie of two counts of mischief stemming from an incident with a photographer who was filming the protest from across the street of the Calgary Courts Centre on Aug. 5, 2021.

“It is difficult to see how the lived experience of the accused is in any way relevant to the interaction with the photographer,” the judge said.

Barley ordered McNallie to pay $2,800 in restitution for damaging the photographer’s glasses and camera equipment, and handed her two 14-day sentences to be served concurrently to the 30 days.

Outside court, Haggerty said McNallie will have to consider whether she appeals her convictions or sentence.

But he said it was hard to understand how his client received the same punishment as Dunn, who was dismissed from the CPS last week following a disciplinary hearing.

“Anyone that has seen the both the Dunn video and the video involving Ms. McNallie would struggle to reconcile the fact that both received the same sentence,” Haggerty said.

Dunn flipped Dalia Kofi, who was handcuffed behind her back, face-first onto the floor of the arrest processing unit.

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