(Canadian OH&S News) — The RCMP has been ordered to adopt mandatory cultural sensitivity training with a view to “developing and promoting a culture of respect and tolerance for diversity.”
The order by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) follows its determination that a young Muslim man — whose lifelong goal and every effort seemed directed toward becoming a Mountie — was the subject of systematic harassment while serving as a cadet at the RCMP Training Academy in Regina.
Ali Tahmourpour, a Muslim Canadian born in Iran, entered the academy in mid-July 1999, tribunal member Karen Jensen writes in her April 16 decision. By October 20, 1999, Tahmourpour’s training had been terminated for poor performance.
In a complaint filed with the CHRT in March 2001, Tahmourpour argued his termination “was the culmination of three months of harassment and discrimination on the basis of his race, religion and ethnic or national origin,” contrary to protections under the Canadian Human Rights Act.
It did not take long for the ill treatment to begin, that being his first day at the training academy (known as Depot). Tahmourpour alleges, among others, the following actions and behaviours:
- he was singled out for negative treatment on the basis of his religion, race and national or ethnic origin;
- he was ridiculed for wearing a religious pendant and for signing his name in the Persian style;
- his performance was improperly evaluated; and,
- he was subjected to ongoing verbal harassment, hostile treatment and negative performance evaluations by his instructors.
The latter had “the effect of undermining his confidence and impairing his ability to develop and demonstrate the necessary skills,” Jensen writes.
After challenging one instructor, that individual “began mounting a campaign” to have Tahmourpour removed. “At the urging of this instructor, Mr Tahmourpour was given negative and inaccurate performance evaluations which ultimately led to his dismissal from the training program,” the decision states.
Tahmourpour was of the view that his negative treatment “was a manifestation of systemic discrimination against visible minorities.”
The RCMP denied there was systemic discrimination at Depot. Tahmourpour’s performance was fairly evaluated, it argued, but found wanting. “His training contract was terminated for no other reason than that he failed to meet the standards,” the ruling notes.
On the evidence, Jensen concludes Tahmourpour established a prima facie case that, among other things, the RCMP’s dress and hygiene instructions and an instructor’s comments about his pendant adversely differentiated against him on the basis of his religion; and his treatment by the head instructor of the firearms unit was based, at least in part, on race, religion and national or ethnic origin.
Tahmourpour’s treatment prevented him from demonstrating the knowledge and skills needed to be an officer, the ruling notes. “It has not yet been determined whether, in a non-discriminatory environment, he can demonstrate those skills and knowledge.”
The RCMP must take corrective action. If the parties cannot agree how to implement changes within three months, Jensen writes she will make all final decisions.
Written response to recommendations needed
Specifically, the remedies include that the RCMP must implement the following:
- a policy and set of procedures for dealing with harassment and discrimination at Depot that allow cadets an immediate opportunity to voice concerns (without fear of retaliation or negative consequences) to someone with the authority to make changes;
- a mandatory diversity/cultural sensitivity training program that is then delivered to cadets and all personnel at Depot; and,
- an advisory committee or a multiculturalism officer to make recommendations about how to prevent discrimination and promote respect and tolerance for diversity to Depot’s commanding officer. A written response to recommendations would be required.
Jensen further ordered that the national force offer Tahmourpour an opportunity to re-enroll in the next available cadet training program.
Last, the financial remedy includes the following: the salary and benefits Tahmourpour lost for the first two years, plus 12 weeks of work as an RCMP officer after graduating from Depot; $9,000 in pain and suffering (Tahmourpour experienced pain and suffering, but not of the duration and intensity to merit the $20,000 maximum award he requested); $12,000 in special compensation (to reflect willful and reckless discriminatory remarks and harassment, as well as the provision of inaccurate and unfair evaluations); $9,500 to pay for a real estate course Tahmourpour said he incurred in his efforts to minimize his damages (he incurred expenses that would not have been necessary had he been permitted to complete RCMP training); and reasonable legal costs as an expense arising from the discriminatory conduct.