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Discrimination Hearing Concludes

Earlier this week saw the conclusion of a five-day hearing at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario in the application filed by Borderland Pride and others concerning the decision of council of the Township of Emo to refuse to recognize Pride Month in 2020.


This proceeding alleged discrimination in the provision of a service on the basis of several grounds protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code, including sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, family status, and creed. The service in question was the making of a proclamation or resolution of support for a community event or cause – a service that the Township of Emo has provided many times over the years to a variety of organizations and individuals, including to Borderland Pride itself. The human rights law on this exact type of discrimination by a municipality has been settled since the mid-1990s, when local Pride organizers challenged similar refusals by the mayors of London and Hamilton.


Borderland Pride's claim seeks a total of $45,000 in compensation plus various other remedies, including an order that the municipality proclaim Pride Month in subsequent years. Publicly reported information suggests that, as of 2022, the municipality had spent over $38,000 on legal fees to defend the claim. It is unclear how much the municipality has now spent for the lawyers representing the Township and the 3 council members, who are separately represented. There is no ability to recover legal costs at the Tribunal.


The applicants in this proceeding were Borderland Pride, Douglas W. Judson (he/him), Katie Shoemaker (she/her), and the Northern Ontario Pride Network (NOPN). NOPN’s application was struck at the outset of the hearing as it was not clear that it had actually requested a service of the municipality. The hearing proceeded with Borderland Pride, Mr. Judson, and Ms. Shoemaker.


The respondents were the municipality, and the three-member majority of council that supported the resolution: Mayor Harold McQuaker, Councillor Harrold Boven, and Councillor Warren Toles (who left office in 2022).


The underlying events unfolded between May 12 and 26, 2020, when council considered Borderland Pride's request. As a result of delays at the Tribunal, it has taken 4 years for the matter to come to a hearing.


The hearing was presided over by Tribunal Vice-Chair Karen Dawson. Vice-Chair Dawson indicated at the conclusion of the hearing that a decision would likely be released in about 6 months’ time.


Borderland Pride wishes to thank its legal team of Douglas Elliott and Timothy Phelan at Cambridge LLP for their representation and hard work in this proceeding.


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Contact:

Borderland Pride

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