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Case against police trainers dismissed

Gay man says he knew he lacked a 'smoking gun'

The case of a Vancouver man who alleges he was discriminated against by the Justice Institute of BC because he is in a same-sex relationship has been dismissed by the province’s human rights tribunal.

Currently employed by the Justice Institute’s paramedic academy, Marc Guay says he applied for a higher position and was short-listed for the job last year, but didn’t get it.

So he filed a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal in May 2005, alleging he was overlooked for the promotion because of his sexual orientation. The tribunal dismissed his complaint Feb 17, ruling there was insufficient evidence to prove discrimination.

Guay says he’s disappointed in the decision, calling it “totally subjective.” But he won’t pursue the case further as it has been exhausting “both mentally and physically,” he says.

In his complaint to the tribunal, Guay alleges he did not get the job because of discriminatory attitudes held toward him by academy director David Busse and institute director Keith Wilkinson.

The institute provides training to people working in justice and policing. Its most recent high-profile task was the re-training of the new regional transit police before they were re-deployed carrying firearms.

In May 2005, Guay applied for the position of associate registrar at the institute. By then, he says, he had already worked in the registration office for three and a half years and had been promoted to supervisor of administrative services.

Six external applicants were on the A-list to fill the associate registrar position. Guay claims he was told that if none of those candidates succeeded, he was at the top of the B-list and would be considered at that time.

On May 9 he was allegedly told he would be interviewed two days later for the position. This, he notes, conflicted with news he had received earlier from a co-worker who had allegedly spoken to Wilkinson and learned that Guay wouldn’t be interviewed at all.

Guay told the tribunal he was ultimately denied the promotion and other advancements because he is in a same-sex relationship. “I believe that I was overlooked for the position because of my sexual orientation,” he testified.

The Justice Institute denied Guay’s allegations, telling the tribunal he ranked fourth in the interview process. “The consensus of the four panel members was that the complainant did not rank as highly as those invited to the second evaluation,” the institute said in its defence.

Guay also alleges he received differential treatment in the support he got with regard to his participation in an MBA program. He says another employee got full funding while he only got 50 percent support

“I understand that Dave and Keith are both religious and it is my belief that their religious values suggest that same-sex partners are immoral,” Guay told the tribunal.

Both men deny these allegations as well.

In defence statements, Busse said he is agnostic. Wilkinson stated he is a past president of the Unitarian Church Vancouver. The church’s general assembly called for legalization of same-sex marriage in 1996, according to its website.

The tribunal ruled that Guay did not prove a link between his sexual orientation and his not receiving full support for his participation in the MBA program.

Further, writes tribunal member Abraham Okazaki, “Mr Guay does not offer any examples of alleged discriminatory remarks or specific acts on the part of Mr Busse, Mr Wilkinson, or any other individual.”

Adds Okazaki: Guay did not challenge Busse and Wilkinson’s rebuttals of his claims that they were against same-sex marriage, either. Nor did he dispute the institute’s descriptions of the job selection process.

“Therefore, Mr Guay does not challenge the [institute’s] assertion that, in both cases, someone better qualified than him obtained the position,” Okazaki ruled.

Okazaki said he accepted that Guay felt he had been discriminated against and that there was no other rational explanation for his rejections. “However, such feeling and belief are based on speculation and conjecture, and are not supported by the material and information before me,” Okazaki said in dismissing the case.

“In my assessment, there is no reasonable prospect that, if this matter were to proceed to a hearing, Mr Guay would succeed in establishing his case on a balance of probabilities,” Okazaki ruled.

Guay says he knew the case would be hard to prove. “I was told all along I didn’t have the smoking gun,” he told Xtra West.

Though he says he’ll let the case drop now, he hopes the Justice Institute will take it as a warning.

“Each individual wants to feel equal and be treated that way,” he says.

Roz Shakespeare, a transgendered, retired member of the Vancouver Police Department, says she and others have done diversity training at the institute. She says she’s not aware of discrimination being an issue there.

“They tend to be incredibly progressive,” Shakespeare says. “I’ve always been warmly greeted out there.”

Vince Marino, a gay member of the police chief’s Diversity Advisory Committee, says he has not heard of any problems with the Justice Institute, either.

But, he says, the chief’s advisory committee is more involved with policing issues as they affect the wider community. Guay’s case, Marino says, is more a labour relations issue that would not fall under the committee’s purview.