Peel Law Association to challenge discrimination ruling

The Peel Law Association is seeking judicial review of an Ontario human rights tribunal ruling last month that found it discriminated against Toronto lawyer Selwyn Pieters and two black colleagues during an incident in 2008.

Frances Wood, president of the association, confirms it has instructed counsel to ask for a judicial review of the Pieters v. Peel Law Association decision.

The incident took place on May 16, 2008, in the lawyers’ lounge at the courthouse in Brampton, Ont. At the time, Pieters was there with fellow lawyer Brian Noble and law student Paul Waldron dealing with a Youth Criminal Justice Act application. All three were wearing business suits, according to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ruling by adjudicator Eric Whist.

The association operates the lounge and adjoining library. As the trio sat inside, Melissa Firth, a librarian/administrator for the association, asked for identification. A member of the association’s board of directors was with her, according to the ruling. While the precise details of exactly what took place were in dispute, there was general agreement that Pieters quickly responded with allegations that those actions constituted racial profiling.

The association responded that it regularly asks people in the lounge for identification to confirm that they’re admissible, but Whist nevertheless found evidence of discrimination. “The inference I draw is that the applicants’ race and colour was a factor which led to the personal respondent’s decision to question them and affected the manner in which she questioned and interacted with them,” he wrote.

In response, Whist ordered the association to pay $2,000 to each of the applicants.

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