I am Dr. Yaw Perbi (no, not an honorary doctorate), a medical doctor by training, a pastor-missionary by calling and currently president of International Student Ministries Canada, Global CEO of The HuD Group and Catalyst for the Lausanne Movement.
Up until last year (2017) I had been a mentor for the Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS) at McGill University in Montreal for the last seven years or so, basically since a short while after I arrived in Canada as a cross-cultural missionary.
My affinity to the group is obviously because I’m a medic myself but also particularly because I was once president of my own medical school’s Christian Medical Fellowship at the University of Ghana.
This was all an informal arrangement until 2013 when I was formally engaged by the national office of CMDS, after an interview in Montreal by Executive Director Larry Worthen, to be the official Associate Staff for CMDS in Montreal.
It was neither a full-time position nor fully-funded and the humble quarterly stipend I received was considered as part of my missionary pay as President of ISMC.
With effect from September 30, 2017 I am no longer holding this position, voluntarily stepping down because of my scheduled furlough of eight months (September 24, 2017 to May 23, 2018) with my family in Ghana and also a sense that it is time for someone else to be a blessing to the students. I will always be around to mentor them in my former voluntary capacity, anyway.
Considering how often I’m required to drive downtown to mentor these future medics, I developed a habit of finding as much free parking as possible to go easy on my missionary budget.
For CMDS meetings at the Meredith Annex, Faculty of Medicine (3706/08 Rue Peel, Montreal, QC H3A 1W9) I would typically park on the adjoining empty car park since although reserved for McGill staff our meetings are after working hours—6.30 to 8.30pm.
However, on more than one occasion over the last couple of years I have been confronted by a certain middle-aged, white man who supposedly lives in the house beyond the car park about parking in a spot not allotted to me. Over the years, all attempts at explaining to him my noble mission and the fact that I do not occupy the space during office hours have proven futile.
He even once disturbed our CMDS meeting by continuously banging on the window. In frustration, I have told him more than once to call the phone number of the parking agency which runs the car park (boldly displayed on the parking posts) to tow my car away or call the police if he felt so strongly about it. For some reason he never did.
Quite honestly, the look in this man’s eye always gives me three impressions: either mentally unstable (with my medical doctor eye), demon-possessed (with my pastor-missionary eye) or plain racist (with my ‘black eye’). However, I have resisted passing judgement and treated him as humanely as I can.
On May 23, 2017, after our CMDS meeting (during which I had parked at my usual disputed spot), I stepped out of the building after 9pm (did not check the exact time) to pick up my van only to be confronted again by this same gentleman again. This time, armed with an iPad and insisting taking a photograph of me. I was enraged. Who on earth gave him the right to accost me in the first place, let alone take a photograph of me?!
Although extremely agitated I kept my cool to again tell him to either call the parking agency or the police if he thought I was in the wrong for parking there but that he had no right to take the law into his own hands, especially to attempt to photograph me. In fact, I even told him I didn’t mind him taking a picture of my grey Dodge Caravan or even the licence plate but there was no way I was going to allow him to take a photo of me.
This man wouldn’t budge—he kept trying to shove his iPad in my face and I kept trying to avoid it. Even when I sat in the car to drive a few feet away to the entrance of the Meredith Annex to pick up one of the students (I usually drove the then-President, Michael Destounis, home) he literally wanted to shove the ipad into the car. I managed to close the door and drive off.
Then I got in front of the Annex ostensibly to pick up Michael only to find that this man was racing towards me still with ipad-in-hand determined to shove it in my face for a photo. I was agitated; really agitated but never lifted a finger against him. The only reason I stretched out my hand was to attempt to block the camera lens of the iPad being shoved in my face so he wouldn’t get a shot of me (there was even no contact between my hand and the iPad!).
I can’t tell if he got any shots taken (hopefully none with my face in it) but I finally managed to get into the car. I had actually wanted to get back out and tell him I would report him to the police for harassing me but I hadn’t noticed the car was already in ‘drive’ and had begun to move so I quickly jumped back in to make sure Michael (who by this time had sat in my front seat, bewildered by goings-on) would be safe. I just thought I might as well drive off.
Imagine my surprise when I received a phone call a couple of weeks later from the Montreal Police, specifically one Detective Stephanie Marchand, that this man had launched a complaint against me for assaulting him. Huh?! I was shocked beyond belief. I actually felt quite done in for rather not being the one reporting him to the law for harassment!
Fortunately, I wasn’t alone. Two of the medical students present, Michael and Camilla, were present and have been willing ever since provide eyewitness accounts. I will share their versions with you in due course.
Although the Detective apparently did not see much merit in this man’s complaint she was following due process and had wanted me to pass by—and I was eager to go—and see the police to give my side of the story. Wisdom taught me though, considering the nature of things in this part of the world, that it would be better not to speak directly to the police but get my dear friend, brother and ministry partner, Lawyer John Marcogliese, to do so on my behalf.
As far as I am concerned, Lawyer Marcogliese and Detective Marchand had been having fruitful exchanges back and forth and this ‘tempest in a teapot’ seemed to be over only for me to receive a court summons at home on September 20 while packing up and getting ready to travel to Ghana for an eight-month missionary furlough!
Although I thought with all my experience in life, by now I’ve ‘seen it all and heard it all,’ I was flabbergasted by not only all the three FALSE charges against me by this man, James Simon, but even more so that this is now a criminal case of Her Majesty against me?! How on earth could that happen?!
One of the charges is that I assaulted him with a weapon. As a medical doctor, I have written many police reports and would’ve liked to see a doctor’s report confirming physical, bodily evidence of such assault. Zilch! Another of the charges is that I wanted to steal his iPad.
For real? I would be happy to donate one to James Simon. My being Black doesn’t warrant such a totally below-the-belt, unfounded, wicked accusation—let alone a formal criminal charge! Outrageous! Everything points to an unstable mental state. His medical records need to be retrieved and checked. Or perhaps this is just another case of the kind of tragic racism rearing its ugly head again all over North America these days?
Thankfully, John had spoken with an astute criminal lawyer, Lawyer Mark Paci, whose own two sons used to attend med school at McGill. He is also a friend of my co-patron of the CMDS at McGill, Dr. David Dawson.
Although Mark is a distinguished lawyer with 40 years experience and would only normally deal with high profile cases like provincial fraud he was touched by my case (his own migrant family suffered horrid racism when they initially migrated from Italy decades ago!) and was willing to let truth stand and justice be done, in God’s name!
Imagine my shame when I had to walk to the police station to be photographed and get my fingerprints taken as they would do any ordinary criminal! The initial show in court was November 10, 2017, to open my defence and basically get access to the police dossier (that’s when I got to read this man’s incredible statements to the police). The next court appearance on June 14 was postponed because Detective Marchand was on vacation. Fancy that!
So November 28, 2018 was going to be the final showdown in Room 1.80 at the Montreal Municipal Court. Tune in for more.