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Gay couple awarded $15k by rights tribunal

Couple faced harassment, vandalism

The Quebec Human Rights Tribunal has ordered a father and son to pay a gay couple $15,000 in damages.

The Tribunal ruled May 21 that the couple had been victims of homophobic harassment and that their civil rights had been violated. The Tribunal ordered that the teen and his father, who was held responsible for his son’s actions, pay $15,000 in punitive and moral damages to the couple.

The acts took place in 2003 against Theo Wouters and Roger Thibault, the first gay couple in Quebec to get married by civil union.

Following the tribunal’s ruling, the couple said they hoped they could now move on.

“We hope that there can be peace and respect for who we are — a gay couple that only wishes to live our quiet life in dignity,” says Thibeault.

“We encourage gays and lesbians who have been victims of homophobia to publicly denounce these hateful acts,” says Wouters. “One must never be afraid or ashamed of asserting one’s rights.”

In two separate incidents, a group of teens drove by the couple’s home and threw a flare and toilet paper on the front lawn.

On another occasion, Thibault and Wouters followed the group in order to identify them. One of the teens got out of the group’s truck, approached the couple’s car, started hitting the window and allegedly threatened to “break the window” and “break” one of the men’s faces.

According to the Montreal Gazette, the teen was arrested, but police never charged him.

Thibault and Wouters pursued the case further. In a decision last year, the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission found only one of the four youth to be responsible. The commission ordered the parents of that teen to pay the couple $10,000.

The Tribunal’s May 21 decision has important repercussions for minors in cases of discrimination, says Marie Noël Jacob, one of the lawyers who represented the couple.

“This message should be taken very seriously by all parents and school authorities since it is often the case that youths may engage in discriminatory acts towards gays and lesbians without their parents knowing about them or what the consequences may be,” says Jacob.