2 min

Donut-shop discrimination?

Lawsuit targets cops over transphobic incidents

Two trans people have launched a $1-million lawsuit against the Toronto Police Services Board and an undercover officer, claiming they were discriminated against based on their gender identity.

“There is a lot of discrimination still happening, and to come from people who are there to serve and to protect, it’s something that’s just beyond comprehension,” says Adel Abdulrahim.

According to the statement of claim, Abdulrahim, a transgendered person, and Lorraine Tagalog, a transsexual, were at the Baker’s Dozen at the corner of Wellesley and Sherbourne on the morning of Mar 24. They were talking over coffee when three people came in. One of them, later identified as 51 Division undercover Const Michael Case, ordered them to leave and told them they’d be arrested if they didn’t go. When they asked why they were being thrown out, they say Case replied, “I don’t like people like you.”

Case shoved Abdulrahim out the door while the other officers laughed, states the statement of claim. When the two called 911 to report the incident, the officers who arrived on the scene spoke with the police, not Tagalog and Abdulrahim. They called 911 again, and the same officers arrived.

“They said they cannot take complaints against fellow officers, which apparently is true,” says Christopher Reid, the lawyer representing Tagalog and Abdulrahim. “That’s the policy, that the complaint has to be filed in writing.”

The duo did file a complaint with the Toronto Police Services Board, requesting the board examine the conduct of the officers involved in the incident. The results of an internal investigation – which denies any wrongdoing — were issued on Aug 25.

Reid says that in the internal report Case claimed the two trans people were ejected from the coffee shop for loitering, which they maintain they were not.

“It would have been a simple matter to determine if it was true or not…. The investigator only had to speak to the cashier,” says Reid.

The Ontario Civilian Commission On Police Services has since ordered the internal investigation reopened.

In addition to the formal complaint, Tagalog and Abdulrahim filed the lawsuit against the police and Case and the defendants were served on Sep 26.

“We want to make sure that this does not happen again, because it should not happen to any human being,” says Abdulrahim.

Originally the lawsuit also named the donut shop in the lawsuit, but a settlement has since been reached with the business’ owner. Tagalog and Abdulrahim have applied for $1-million in damages, including damages for breach of Charter rights. They have also filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission in connection to the incident.

The statement of claim also describes a second incident on Mar 30 in which Abdulrahim was ordered to leave the same business by Case. She says Case claimed to be doing so at the request of the shop owners.

A statement of claim contains allegations that have not yet been proven in a court of law; a statement of defence has not yet been filed.

Reid expects it will take at least a year until the lawsuit and human rights complaint are resolved. Both Tagalog and Abdulrahim have been to the donut shop since March and neither report any problems.

Other than confirming that the lawsuit had been filed, the police would not comment on this case, nor would anyone from the Baker’s Dozen.