The Township of Emo has spent $38,000 defending a complaint filed with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario two years ago by Borderland Pride, the Northern Ontario Pride Network, and members of the local LGBTQ2 community.
On July 13, 2022, municipal staff confirmed the amount that has been spent so far. The information was shared publicly in response to a question asked at a community meeting about the municipal budget.
The Township of Emo is represented in the legal proceeding by McKitricks Law Office in Thunder Bay. The proceeding has not yet gone to a hearing and the only material filed by the municipality with the Tribunal is a brief response to the claim.
The human rights complaint names as respondents the municipality, Mayor Harold McQuaker, Councillor Warren Toles, and Councillor Harrold Boven. This three-member majority of the Council refused to adopt a resolution in support of Pride Month in 2020.
In factually-similar cases involving other Ontario municipalities (the earliest of which was decided almost 30 years ago) the Tribunal has found that denying a Pride resolution is discriminatory on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. The Council was informed of these legal precedents and of the municipality's requirements to comply with Ontario's Human Rights Code before they made their decision on May 12, 2020. The Council was asked by Borderland Pride to reconsider its decision two weeks later, and the majority refused to change their votes.
In past cases, the monetary amount awarded by the Tribunal to the successful complainants has been less than the amount the Township has spent so far to compensate its lawyers. Borderland Pride is not aware of a single Human Rights Tribunal proceeding against a city for this reason that has not been decided in favour of the complainant.
On June 29, 2022, Council voted to indemnify Mayor McQuaker and two councillors, using taxpayer dollars, from any costs they may incur as a result of the human rights proceeding. It is unclear whether any of them are running for re-election this fall.
Emo town council rejects Pride proclamation (Media Release, May 12, 2020)
Emo council sticks with discriminatory resolution (Media Release, May 26, 2020)
Discrimination complaint filed over municipal refusal to recognize Pride (Media Release, June 22, 2020)