Human rights and duties

I was discriminated against by my association or union

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These case summaries show examples of the awards the Tribunal has made when a person has suffered injury to their dignity and self-respect because of discrimination. The summaries also show what other awards were made, like compensation for lost wages or other expenses.

Fossum v. Society of Notaries (No. 2), 2011 BCHRT 310 ($5,000)

Area: Membership in an occupational association
Grounds: Mental and physical disability (alcoholism)
Discrimination: Discipline

The discrimination: Mr. Fossum had an alcohol use disorder. After he finished a treatment program, the Society of Notaries issued a Notice of Inquiry against him. The Notice “charged” him with “self-induced alcohol abuse” that put his clients at risk. Mr. Fossum had to make a “solemn promise” that he would not have another relapse.

Vulnerability: Mr. Fossum was very vulnerable. He had just come home from treatment. He had recently become sober. He was still adjusting to life without the support of a 24 hour treatment program. He was desperate to be reinstated to the Society. He did not want to lose his livelihood. His “solemn promise” that he would not have a relapse put him in a very vulnerable position. The breach of that kind of promise is the most blameworthy and serious charge that can be made against a notary.

Effect: Mr. Fossum was humiliated and lost self-esteem. He suffered indignity because he had to make a promise that he would not have a relapse of his disability.

Gichuru v. The Law Society of British Columbia (No. 9), 2011 BCHRT 185 ($25,000)

Area: Admission to an occupational association
Grounds: Mental disability (depression)
Discrimination: Barriers to being admitted to Law Society
Wage loss: $72,499.91 plus income tax gross up
Expenses: $3,155.37 (expert’s report, independent psychiatric examination, lawyers’ fees in relation to the Committee)

The discrimination: Mr. Gichuru wanted to be a lawyer. To do that, he had to article with a law firm. The Law Society had to approve his articles. When he applied to article, the Law Society asked him questions about his mental health. Mr. Gichuru told them he had a history of depression. The Law Society then asked a lot of intrusive and irrelevant questions about his mental health to see if he was “fit” to become a lawyer. It made Mr. Gichuru do an Independent Psychiatric Assessment with a psychiatrist he could not choose. It also told him that he would have to do on-going consulting with a doctor about his psychiatric assessments.  

Vulnerability: Mr. Gichuru was in a very vulnerable position with the Law Society. He was at the very start of his legal career. Decisions of the Law Society can have a significant effect on a lawyer. There was a power imbalance.

Effect: The Law Society’s requests intruded on Mr. Gichuru’s personal and medical autonomy. The discrimination continued for a long time. It had a big and ongoing impact on Mr. Gichuru’s articles. Mr. Gichuru felt anxiety each time he had to have contact with the Law Society, both before and after he became a lawyer. Mr. Gichuru did not provide medical evidence, but the Tribunal accepted that the discrimination had a big emotional impact on him.

Note: This case was upheld by the BC Court of Appeal in: Gichuru v. The Law Society of British Columbia, 2014 BCCA 396.

Brar and others v. B.C. Veterinary Medical Association (No. 22), 2015 BCHRT 151 ($2,000 – $35,000)

Area: Services and participation in professional association, retaliation
Grounds: Race, colour, place of origin
Discrimination: Systemic discrimination and retaliation

Overview: The BC Veterinary Medical Association (BCVMA) discriminated against Indo-Canadian veterinarians. It relied on racial stereotypes about Indo-Canadian veterinarians. It was involved in rumours that the veterinarians were incompetent and more likely to act unethically. The BCVMA also set a standard for English language that was too high and put Indo-Canadians at a disadvantage. It unfairly targeted Indo-Canadian veterinary clinics for unscheduled inspections. It dealt with disciplinary complaints in a way tainted by racism. The discrimination happened over eight years. The Tribunal made 13 awards of injury to dignity, ranging from $2,000 to $35,000.

In addition to monetary awards, the Tribunal also ordered the BCVMA to take certain steps with respect to specific disciplinary files, to publish the summary of the decision, to develop an anti-discrimination policy, and to provide training to its staff and others targeting race-based discrimination and issues arising with respect to persons with disabilities, including the process for accommodation.

The Tribunal ordered the BCVMA to pay the complainants for the expense of an expert’s report and evidence at the hearing.

Dr. Bajwa – $35,000

The discrimination: The BCVMA discriminated against Dr. Bajwa in the disciplinary process. It saw him as one of the ringleader’s loyal lieutenants. The BCVMA questioned both his honesty and integrity, with very little basis. The BCVMA also retaliated against him when it did an unscheduled inspection of his hospital while he was preparing to give evidence at the Human Rights Tribunal.

Vulnerability: None identified.

Effect: Dr. Bajwa felt targeted and humiliated. He always worried that the BCVMA might close his hospital. He was under a lot of stress. He stopped having a social life or spending time with his children. He did not sleep or eat well. He had headaches. He could not take his children to India because he was afraid to leave his hospital. He could not make certain decisions because he was afraid the BCVMA would take away his license. Dr. Bajwa was brought to tears in the hearing.

Dr. Johar – $30,000

The discrimination: The BCVMA discriminated against Dr. Johar in the disciplinary process. It suppressed exculpatory evidence, gave misleading reports, secretly copied his files, contacted his clients, applied double-standards, and did not follow basic rules of fairness.

Vulnerability: None identified.

Effect: Dr. Johar’s interactions with the BCVMA were difficult, and affected him professionally and personally. Dr. Johar suffered from panic attacks, insomnia and depression. The events hurt his relationship with his family and children. The Tribunal also took into account Dr. Johar’s behaviour, some of which was disrespectful and may have made matters worse.

Dr. Grewal – $30,000

The discrimination: The BCVMA refused to register Dr. Grewal as a member. It based this decision also on mental disability and criminal conviction. Dr. Grewal’s request to be a member was complicated. He was challenging to deal with. But, the BCVMA did not treat him with respect. It disclosed private information to third parties. The discrimination was serious. It was on-going up to the hearing.

Vulnerability: Dr. Grewal was vulnerable because of a mental disability.

Effect: None discussed.

Dr. Bhullar – $30,000

The discrimination: The BCVMA saw Dr. Bhullar as the ring-leader for the Indo-Canadian veterinarians. It discriminated against him in the disciplinary process. He lost his licence to practice. The events went on more than eight years.         

Vulnerability: None identified.

Effect: Dr. Bhullar’s work as a veterinarian was central to his identity. The discrimination had a severe impact on him. It significantly disrupted his family life. He was under an enormous stress. He had health problems. The Tribunal lowered the award slightly because Dr. Bhullar added to the conflict.

Dr. Joshi – $25,000

Wage loss: $39,505 plus income tax gross up

Expenses:  $5,765.46 plus others

The discrimination:   The association refused to license Dr. Joshi. It questioned his honesty and integrity based on race-based stereotypes. This lasted for over one year.

Vulnerability: None identified.

Effect: Dr. Joshi was humiliated. The discrimination was devastating to his self-esteem. It affected his trust in the BCVMA and his hope of getting licensed. The process was stressful and frustrating. Dr. Joshi was unlicensed and unemployed for about a year and a half. He moved to get work. This was difficult for both him and his wife. His professional reputation was harmed.

Dr. Bhatia – $15,000

The discrimination:   Dr. Bhatia could not pass the English Language Standard. The BCVMA treated him without respect. He was treated as part of the complaining group of Indo-Canadian veterinarians.

Vulnerability: None identified

Effect: Dr. Bhatia felt disrespected.

Dr. Brar – $10,000

The discrimination:   In addition to the general patterns of discrimination, the BCVMA was unfairly suspicious about Dr. Brar’s medical records.

Vulnerability: None identified

Effect: Dr. Brar could not take vacations or visit his family since opening his veterinary clinic. He had to work long hours and had less time for his family.

Dr. Parbhakar – $10,000

The discrimination: In addition to the general patterns of discrimination, the BCVMA treated Dr. Parbhakar badly because of his race when it processed a complaint against him. 

Vulnerability: None identified.

Effect: The events had a negative effect on Dr. Parbhakar and his family. Dr. Parbhakar felt he had to be very selective in what patients he took. This affected his business.

Dr. Benipal – $10,000

The discrimination: Dr. Benipal was treated badly by the BCVMA in disciplinary complaints because of his race.

Vulnerability: None identified.

Effect: Dr. Benipal felt disrespected by his colleagues. He lost time with his family because he always had to be alert and present in his clinic. He felt like a second-class citizen.

Dr. Sidhu – $10,000

The discrimination: Because of the English language requirements, Dr. Sidhu did not register as a veterinarian in BC. He had to live in the US apart from his family.

Vulnerability: None identified.

Effect: Being separated took a big toll on Dr. Sidhu and his family.

Dr. Jagpal – $7,500

The discrimination:   Dr. Jagpal ran for the Council, and the BCVMA discriminated against him when it treated his vision statement differently. The BCVMA questioned Dr. Jagpal’s honesty and accused him of falsifying medical records.

Vulnerability: None identified.

Effect: None discussed.

Dr. Hans – $5,000

The discrimination: Dr. Hans was affected by the general patterns of discrimination.

Vulnerability: None identified.

Effect: Dr. Hans felt insecure and stressed. His family had also been stressed.

Dr. Sharma – $2,000

The discrimination: Dr. Sharma was penalized by the BCVMA with a one year suspension. Proceedings against him lasted seven years. It caused him to lose his hospital.

Vulnerability: None identified.

Effect: No evidence.