Wednesday, April 08, 2009

More Insanity from the Human Rights Tribunals

The Human Rights Tribunal of Quebec has forced Jules Bertiboni, an apartement building concierge, to pay $4000 in damages for having discriminated against John Rooney, a gay man, for discrimination. Rooney claims that he phoned up Mr. Bertiboni and asked if a 2-and-a-half (that's a one-bedroom apartment for non-Quebeckers!) was available. He claims that the concierge said no and called him a "tapette" (fag).

Mr. Rooney got his niece Dawn Vardon to call up Mr. Bertiboni and she said that he reported that it had been available.

Mr. Bertiboni claims he does not recall the conversation, which took place 2 years previous (one year to the initial investigation). There were no witnesses to the conversation.

The Tribunal believed the Mr. Rooney's word against Bertiboni, based on the "detailed nature" of the plaintiff's account, whereas Bertiboni, couldn't recall a single fact of the situation (how convenient, given that he couldn't remember the conversation). He categorically denies ever having called him a "tapette" insisted he would never deny an apartment to anyone based on a person's orientation.

And here's another point of doubt: When Rooney called Bertiboni, he spoke French with a heavy accent. Whereas when Dawn Vardon spoke to Mr. Bertiboni, she spoke English, whereas Mr. Bertiboni claims he is not fluent in English.

It sounds to me like there could have been some room for miscommunication.

Another interesting point is that Rooney did not ask Bertiboni's name during the conversation. He was identified by his voice.

As I read the case I wonder: how could this case be judged? I'm no legal scholar, but I see all kinds of points of doubt in that case. If I were a juror for a real trial, I think I might be inclined to let Bertiboni go free.

I'd really like to write more, especially about how the Tribunal believes that "hurt feelings" deserve compensation. I'm kind of busy now. If you can read French, it's worth a look.