Judge lashes out at retired civil servant for 'selfish act'
Dec. 8, 2010 Ottawa Citizen
An Ottawa judge said she was no closer to understanding why a retired
civil servant described by his friends as a generous man and principled
humanitarian ended up firebombing a Glebe bank before sentencing him
Tuesday to a further 3 1/2 years in prison.
Ontario Court Justice Celynne Dorval also lashed out at Roger Clement's
decision to put his own political motives ahead of the safety and security
of the community when he set the $1.6-million early morning fire on May 18
that destroyed the Royal Bank branch at 745 Bank St.
"Crimes of urban intimidation infringe on the rights of the majority,"
Dorval told Clement, who pleaded guilty last month to arson causing
property damage as well as mischief for a rock-and-hammer attack on the
windows and automated teller machines of another RBC branch in February.
"It is a selfish act born at times out of frustration. It illustrates
one's decision to break the social contract because that person decides
his or her opinions are more important than the majority's sense of
safety, security or respect for the law," Dorval said to a room crowded
with Clement's supporters and fellow activists.
"Such actions always hurt the cause," she said. "A free society can't
survive when zealots, however passionate, break the law to impose their
will on others."
Four separate surveillance videos taken from the lobby of the bank showed
Clement, in a black jacket and balaclava, pouring gasoline across the
floor in front of the automated teller machines. A second man is then seen
igniting the blaze with a Molotov cocktail. The two flee as the lobby
explodes with flames.
Clement later posted his own video of the firebombing online accompanied
by a manifesto that criticized the bank's sponsorship of the Olympics and
the homelessness the Games allegedly caused in Vancouver. The Ottawa
anarchist group that took credit for the firebombing also vowed to be
present at the then-impending G8 and G20 summits in the Toronto area.
Dorval said she found the last sentences of the manifesto, in which the
firebombers "pass the torch" and urge others to resist the trampling of
native rights and the destruction of the planet, as being of "particular
Dorval said her sentence needed to condemn Clement's "futile" actions,
noting that people who watched and commented on the video online sent a
"clear message" that they were "appalled" by what he had done.
Dorval also chastised Clement for his statements in court Monday, saying
that his expressions of regret for the "inconvenience" he had caused and
for the expense of his prosecution and subsequent incarceration were not
signs of remorse. Letters from his family and friends also shed no light
on why Clement, who had spent 26 years in the civil service and led an
"exemplary life" as a volunteer with various causes, would carry out such
an attack, Dorval said.
"I am left with a smart man who worked hard all his life, cared for others
all his life, who chose to commit a dangerous act and whose remorse is
limited to a plea of guilty when faced with very compelling evidence," she
Dorval said she found the considerable planning, attempts to destroy the
evidence, Clement's leadership role, political motives and his attempts to
incite similar criminal activity online were all aggravating.
"This was not an impulsive act. This arson was an escalation of the
mischief committed three months prior," she said.
However, she noted Clement took steps to ensure no one was in the bank and
She sentenced him to four years, less credit for five-and-a-half months in
pre-sentence custody, leaving him a little more than three-and-a-half
years left to serve. The Crown had been asking for up to a six-year
Arson charges against a second man, Matthew Morgan-Brown, 32, who was in
the courtroom Tuesday, were stayed last month after prosecutors said there
was insufficient evidence against him.
View the security camera video from just before the RBC bank explosion at