(CBC) – The Mounties could be paying more than $1 million as a result of a human rights ruling in favour of a Muslim Iranian-Canadian who faced discrimination at the RCMP Training Academy in Regina and was terminated.
The force must also give Ali Tahmourpour, 35, another chance at becoming an RCMP officer, and introduce changes at the academy to deal with systemic discrimination, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal said in its ruling released Wednesday.
“I have found that the discriminatory treatment prevented Mr. Tahmourpour from demonstrating the knowledge and skills required to be a police officer,” tribunal member Karen Jensen said in the 46-page written decision on Tahmourpour’s discrimination complaint.
Tahmourpour was delighted at the outcome, the culmination of an eight-year fight against the RCMP.
“Something that was taken from me back in 1999, without any just cause, has been returned to me,” Tahmourpour told CBC News on Wednesday. “It’s a great feeling.”
Born in Iran, Tahmourpour said he had a life-long dream of joining the Mounties, and in 1999 entered the RCMP academy in Regina.
Four months into his training, Tahmourpour was booted out. The RCMP said he didn’t measure up, but Tahmourpour said he was the victim of harassment and discrimination at the hands of a number of instructors.
“What I experienced at depot [division] was an ordeal. It was difficult,” Tahmourpour said.
Once, according to the tribunal decision, Tahmourpour caught the attention of a instructor after he signed his name in Persian script, from right to left, as he had been taught as a child
The tribunal accepted Tahmourpour’s account that an instructor told him: “What kind of a [f---ing] language is that, or is it something that you just made up?”
Another time, Tahmourpour was singled out by an instructor for wearing a religious pendant.
One instructor would stand very close to him at the firing range and scream into his ear that he was a “loser,” a “coward,” “[f---ing] useless” and “incompetent,” according to Tahmourpour’s testimony.
His lawyer, Barry Weintraub, said those incidents, and others, added up to an abusive and unnecessary pattern of harassment.
“What happened here is, for reasons involving Mr. Tahmourpour’s background, they took an intense dislike and railroaded him out of the RCMP,” Weintraub said.
Complainant focused on his case
The RCMP argued Tahmourpour failed the cadet training course for reasons that had nothing to do with discrimination. Evidence they presented at the 2007 tribunal hearing suggested he had problems with communications skills, judgment and ability to solve problems.
The tribunal also heard that on two occasions, Tahmourpour’s fellow cadets took him for medical attention for apparently stress-related concerns. He was vomiting, shaking, hyperventilating and incoherent, the tribunal heard.
However, the tribunal decided that at least some of Tahmourpour’s problems stemmed from the discrimination he faced at the Regina facility.
After having his training contract terminated, Tahmourpour moved to Toronto where he worked sporadically as a real estate agent and a Persian-language translator.
He said he was working almost full time pursuing his human rights case.
The decision said the RCMP must pay him $30,500 for pain and suffering, for a special payment and for expenses. It also has to pay him some lost wages and interest, which could total several hundred thousand dollars, according to Weintraub. In total, Tahmourpour should receive $500,000 to $650,000, Weintraub said.
The tribunal also ordered the RCMP to pay Tahmourpour’s legal bills, which Weintraub said were about $500,000.
The force is also being told to give Tahmourpour another shot at training, something he still wants to do.
“Absolutely, no mistake about it,” he said. “I’m just hoping the RCMP would see things for what they are, and I could go back.”
The tribunal has ordered the RCMP to institute a mandatory diversity or cultural awareness program for cadets and instructors. It also wants new procedures to help cadets if they have been victims of discrimination.
The RCMP did not return calls asking for comment.