A Supreme Court judge has order the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal to reconsider the case of a depressed man who was kicked out of a Surrey pharmacy for wearing a hooded sweatshirt.
Stephen Salvo took Shoppers Drug Mart to the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, claiming he was discriminated against because of a mental disability, namely depression.
In his submission to the tribunal, Salvo said his hood helped him feel confident and secure. "The hood is a part of me," he said. He filed his complaint against the store in September 2010, but the tribunal dismissed it in August 2011, finding "no reasonable prospect that the complaint will succeed."
Salvo then applied for a judicial review of that decision, in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.
Justice Stephen Kelleher heard Salvo was wearing a hoodie when he visited the pharmacy, on King George Boulevard, to fill a prescription for his anti-depressant medication. Salvo told the tribunal that "wearing a hood is part of my mental sickness," Kelleher noted.
The store's manager, Kathleen Pang, noticed Salvo's face was hidden by his hood and asked him to remove it. He refused. The court heard that Pang was concerned about robberies being committed by people carrying knives and wearing hoods to hide their faces, after hearing about such crimes at other stores.
Salvo told her he was waiting for his prescription to be filled out.
"She did not ask me why do I have to put on my hood," Salvo told the tribunal. "Also, I was a former monk in a religious group and wearing a hood is part of our religious habit."
Pang told the tribunal that when Salvo refused to remove his hood, she replied "fine," and walked away.
Salvo's version is different. He said Pang threatened to call 911.
The court heard that Salvo then asked pharmacist Chester Ha for Pang's name, and Ha responded by calling Pang. She then told Salvo her first name and gave him the telephone number of Shopper Drug Mart's complaint department.
Pang recalled that Salvo wouldn't leave the store until she gave him her last name. It was at this point, she said, that she told Salvo that if he didn't pick up his prescription and leave, she'd call police, which she did.
A police officer spoke with Salvo outside. The officer then went back into the store and told Pang that Salvo had told him he'd "get" her, the court heard.
"The officer told Ms. Pang he had 'barred' Mr. Salvo from the store," Kelleher noted.
After contemplating Salvo's complaint, the tribunal found it "can deal only with allegations of adverse treatment based on, or connected to, a disability."
"In this case, Mr. Salvo has no reasonable prospect of establishing that there was a connection between the adverse treatment he alleges, and his depression," the tribunal decided.
But Kelleher found that conclusion "surprising."
"He referred to the hood as his security blanket," Kelleher recalled Salvo telling the tribunal. "He asserted that wearing the hood affects his level of confidence and security."
"But for Mr. Salvo's depression," Kelleher found, "he would not have been wearing a hood and there would have been no confrontation with Ms. Pang. There would have been no demand for her surname. There would have been no call to the police."
Kelleher ordered the tribunal to reconsider its decision to dismiss Salvo's complaint, finding it had exercised its discretion arbitrarily, thus rendering the outcome "patently unreasonable" under the Administrative Tribunals Act.