Anti-masker loses case at B.C. Human Rights Tribunal | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Anti-masker loses case at B.C. Human Rights Tribunal

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
April 01, 2021 - 11:10 AM

A B.C. woman that took her local grocery store to the Human Rights Tribunal alleging that it had discriminated against her by refusing her service because she would not wear a mask has had her case immediately dismissed.

In a rare move the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has published its decision not to hear the case because it says it has received a "large volume" of complaints alleging discrimination over the requirement to wear a mask. Ordinarily, in such situations the Tribunal would just write to the complainant advising they had not provided enough evidence to move forward with their claim.

According to a March 31 B.C. Human Rights Tribunal decision, in September 2020 two months before the province made face coverings mandatory indoors, the female complainant entered her local grocery store and was told by a security guard that the store had a mask-wearing policy and she needed to wear one or leave.

The complainant and grocery store were not identified in the decision.

The customer told the security guard she was exempt because they "cause health issues."

The guard asked what those health issues were but the customer said they were private. She then left the store.

In her complaint to the Tribunal, the customer says the "sudden and arbitrary decision to force customers to wear masks is discriminatory," and continues to say it is “pointless.”

Her argument didn’t sit well with the Tribunal.

"The (Human Rights) Code does not protect people who refuse to wear a mask as a matter of personal preference, because they believe wearing a mask is ‘pointless,’ or because they disagree that wearing masks helps to protect the public during the pandemic,” the Tribunal ruled.

When the Tribunal asked her to provide more information about the nature of her alleged disabilities and how it related to her inability to wear a mask, she only replied, "it is very difficult to breathe with masks, and it causes anxiety."

The customer argued her health is a private matter and that she should not have to disclose it to the Tribunal.

Unsurprisingly, her lack of willingness to provide any evidence didn't advance her case.

The Tribunal says to claim discrimination because of a disability a complainant must establish they have a disability. Once a disability is established, the complainant then has to prove how the disability interferes with their ability to wear a mask.

"The Customer’s refusal to explain whether she has a disability, and how that disability impacts her ability to wear a mask, means that she has not set out facts which could, if proven, establish discrimination," the Tribunal said.

The Tribunal does highlight the later public health order requiring masks to be worn in public and its exemptions to the rule if a person has "psychological, behavioural or (a) health condition" or "a physical, cognitive or mental impairment," and are unable to wear a face covering.

The Tribunal also highlights the recommendation from B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner which states, "where the relationship is brief, I recommend duty bearers accommodate those who are unable to wear masks without requiring them to provide medical information, as this is sensitive personal information."

However, the Tribunal goes onto to say when a person files a Human Rights complaint there is "no question" a complainant must establish that they have a disability.

"Without a disability, they are not entitled to accommodation or any potential remedy for discrimination under the (Human Rights) Code," the decision says.

The complaint was dismissed.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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