A young woman who alleged that Abbotsford’s Cactus Club restaurant discriminated against her because of her brother’s connection to crime lost her case before B.C.’s Human Rights Tribunal in a decision released April 2, 2015.

R.S., (who did not want to be identified) attended her brother’s birthday party at the restaurant with 19 other party-goers on June 27, 2014.  During the party, several members of the group got up and smoked marijuana near the front entrance of the restaurant.  The manager of the restaurant subsequently called the police.

When the police arrived at the restaurant, several members of the group left the party.  Of the thirteen that remained, police identified six men who had “serious criminal and/or drug associations”.  The remaining seven women did not have criminal records.  Police encouraged the group to settle their bill and leave the restaurant, which they did.

R.S. argued that she was discriminated against because of her family status, and that the treatment she received violated Section 8 of the Human Rights Code.  She stated that she felt humiliated as a result of the interventions of police and management.  She added that while her brother had been arrested and charged with drug trafficking 9 years ago, he had no criminal convictions.

The Abbotsford Cactus Club was a member of the “Bar Watch” Program, which is a voluntary program on the lower mainland, that connects bars and restaurants with local police.  Under this program, any people deemed “undesirable” or  “trouble makers”, on the basis of their behaviour or involvement in serious/violent crime, can be refused entrance to the business.  Some clubs and bars even scan the patron’s drivers’ licenses prior to entry.

Information collected on problematic patrons is shared amongst all Bar Watch Program within the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.

The Human Rights Tribunal member who decided the case, Parnesh Sharma, agreed to placing limits on the publication of the identity of the complainant, due to her concerns about potential negative affects of the publication of the case upon her career and reputation.  The condition of anonymity was also provided to the witnesses, who were employees of the Cactus Club, to prevent any possible harmful consequences to them.

The Tribunal member did find that some of the issues that R.S. raised about the Bar Watch program, and refusal of service on the basis of their associations, are assumptions that could benefit from further examination within the context of human rights.

However, the complaints before the tribunal did not contravene the code.  “In short, RS was asked to leave because six members of the group she was with had known criminal or drug associations. She has no reasonable prospect of establishing that her family status was a factor in this adverse treatment.”

The case was dismissed.

Jayne Embree, M.A.

Jayne holds a Masters in Psychology and is a highly experienced Divorce Coach and Child Specialist.  She is currently working with the Administrative and Human Resources Departments of Butterfield Law.