the most preposterous cases in the field of so-called human rights
law in recent years has quietly evaporated into the ether, leaving a
relieved but nevertheless injured victim.
is John Fulton, owner of the Downtown Health Club for Women in
St. Catharines, Ontario. In
an individual dressed as a woman visited the club and applied for
then told Fulton, “I’m really a guy”—a man planning to have a
one change room and shower room in the club, admitting this
individual would have meant allowing a man to observe the other
patrons—all female—in various stages of undress. As well, the women
could have been subjected to seeing a naked man in their dressing room. Unable to figure out
how he could
the applicant from a voyeur or an exhibitionist, Fulton
hesitated to grant him membership. Within a week, two more
“transitioning” men tried to join the women’s gym, even though there’s
a co-ed gym right next door. The whole scenario
he could even obtain legal advice, Fulton had been slapped with
a so-called human rights complaint.
the complainant demanded a large sum of money to drop the
complaint. But Fulton declined to capitulate to this example of what
author Ezra Levant has labeled a “shakedown”. Instead, he hired
lawyer Andrew Roman, who tells me the “going rate” for such settlement
demands is $20,000 to $25,000.
legal objections to the Tribunal’s jurisdiction to entertain the
bizarre claim. The Ontario Human Rights Code specifically permits
facilities to serve a single sex on the grounds of public decency, and
ordains that such restrictions do not constitute illegal discrimination. Therefore, how could
anyone reasonably claim that the club had a legal duty to admit a
biological male to the women’s locker room simply because he intended,
some day, to become a woman?
raised constitutional arguments—most importantly, that admitting
the complainant would violate the rights of club members to freedom of
association under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
was finally set for hearing in late 2009 when the complainant
suddenly, without explanation, withdrew the complaint.
was no longer in jeopardy of being “convicted” of a human rights
violation, he now had legal bills of roughly $150,000 to pay. He had also suffered
considerable stress from the prolonged, highly publicized proceedings,
and he felt maligned by the accusation of bigotry that he was never
given the opportunity to disprove. In actuality, Fulton
is a model of tolerance who was recently awarded a plaque for community
service for his long-standing support of AIDS Niagara.
to the Human Rights Tribunal for an award of costs to help pay
his legal fees. He
turned down flat. The
lacks the legal authority to award costs, it ruled.
things are not quite so simple. The Tribunal lacks
the authority only because it has never taken the trouble to avail
itself of the power which the law grants to it of adopting rules
relating to costs. The
is there, under sections 17.1 and 25
Ontario’s Statutory Powers Procedures Act, but the Tribunal has never
bothered to set up a process for enabling it.
why bother? The
of cases that end like Mr. Fulton’s, with the accused walking
away acquitted, are very few indeed. Many cases settle at
the mediation stage when the nature of the shakedown process is first
told, in essence, “You can settle for $25,000 now or pay $200,000
in legal fees later. Take
the process is virtually risk-free. It costs them
nothing to file a complaint, and the tribunal mediator will help
explain the shakedown. If
want some legal help filing their complaint, they can get it gratis at the taxpayer-funded
Human Rights Legal Support Centre. And they never have
to risk paying costs, no matter how ill-conceived or unjustified their
complaint was. Heads,
complainant wins; tails, the accused loses.
the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to ask why they had not
adopted rules on costs. The
told me that any changes to the rules would require public
consultation, and they had no public consultation scheduled. Just one
feeble excuse after another. Meanwhile, the