Court allows inmate’s complaint about discrimination to proceed

The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal allows one inmate’s complaint for alleged religious discrimination to proceed, while dismissing another inmate’s complaint for not wearing Nike shoes for a second time.

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The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal allows one inmate’s claim for religious discrimination to proceed, while dismissing another inmate’s claim for not wearing Nike shoes for a second time.

In the first complaint, Nathan Khan, who describes himself as being of Fijian and East Indian origin and who is Muslim, alleges religious and racial discrimination while he was incarcerated at the Ford Mountain Correctional Center in Chilliwack from September 2019 to July 2019. 2020.

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According to the complaintwhich lists the Ministry of Public Security as the defendant, Khan said he was “denied a Halal diet, subjected to discriminatory comments from others, including correctional center staff, denied an article of religious faith, denied the ability to pray five times a day”. , and subjected to staff searching his room for food during Ramadan.”

The allegations set forth in Khan’s complaint have not been proven.

Khan said that when he first arrived at the prison, he was under the impression that a Halal diet was not possible. Several months later, Khan reviewed the request for a Halal diet through his attorney and only in June 2020 did he begin receiving Halal meals.

In the spring of 2020, while Khan observed Ramadan, he claimed that his room was “searched on several occasions for illicit food during this time.”

The facility also offers a work program and Khan said it wasn’t until June 2020 that his work schedule was changed to fit his daily prayer schedule. Khan’s complaint also lists specific comments he claims were made by staff, including references to immigrants, jokes about Ramadan and comments from kitchen staff when Khan asked about Halal options.

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The ministry argued that some of the “individual comments… do not rise to the level of discrimination” and that an internal investigation had been carried out and no discrimination was found.

However, Robin Dean, a member of the tribunal, disagreed, saying the comments needed to be examined in their context as a whole and, if proven, “Mr Khan’s repeated comments about religion and race (would amount to) to discrimination”.

The ministry also denied that the guards had denied Khan the use of a kufi, an Islamic veil used in prayer, only that he had consulted with the branch’s imam, who said that a kufi “is not a required religious object.” Khan said he had been wearing a towel and then a veil lent to him by a Sikh inmate, but both were confiscated for security reasons, he was told.

In Dean’s decision, issued on March 14 and posted online this week, he noted that the ministry had not demonstrated that the matter had been adequately resolved.

“The ministry’s arguments revolve around the claim that the comments did not occur,” Dean writes. “I have set out above why I am not convinced that the lawsuit should be dismissed based on that argument. “A hearing is required to determine whether the evidence shows that there was a pattern of discriminatory comments experienced by Mr. Khan.”

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A hearing date has not yet been set.

In another decision Also issued on March 14, inmate Daniel Smith asked the court to reconsider an earlier decision to dismiss his disability discrimination claim.

In Smith’s original complaint, he said he had requested to wear his own shoes, described as Nike Airs, while in the Okanagan Correctional Center in 2019 due to foot pain. However, the court found that he could not “demonstrate that he suffered an adverse impact when he was denied the use of his own shoes.”

His original complaint also included a note from a foot clinic, although the court did not accept it in support of his complaint as it was written a year after his incarceration.

In the reconsideration request, Smith notes that he once again suffered paint on his feet while he was re-incarcerated in January 2024.

The decision, written by tribunal member Edward Takayanagi, noted that Smith had not adequately shown that reopening the complaint was in the interests of fairness and justice.

“Reconsideration is not an opportunity to rediscuss issues that were already determined in the original decision,” Takayanagi wrote.

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“It appears that Mr. Smith disagrees with the original decision and argues that the foot clinic note takes his adverse effect claim out of the realm of conjecture. The question has already been considered and decided. “It would not be in the interests of justice and equity to interfere with that decision simply because Mr. Smith disagrees with it.”

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