UPDATED: No human rights violation for being kicked out of Abbotsford restaurant

Woman filed complaint after group, including six men with criminal histories, was asked to leave premises

UPDATED: No human rights violation for being kicked out of Abbotsford restaurant

In another victory for the Bar Watch program, The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has dismissed a complaint from a woman who alleged she was discriminated against when she was kicked out of an Abbotsford restaurant in June 2014.

The woman, identified in tribunal documents only by the initials RS, said her rights were breached because of her brother’s criminal history, and the incident resulted in her feeling humiliated.

But in her written decision, Human Rights Tribunal member Parnesh Sharma ruled that RS had not been treated unfairly when she was ejected from the Sumas Way Cactus Club because there was no evidence that her “family status” led to her being asked to leave. Sharma wrote that RS could not prove that she would have been ejected if her brother had not been present.

Cactus Club is a member of Bar Watch, through which people deemed to be “undesirable” or “troublemakers” – by virtue of their behaviour or involvement in serious and/or violent criminal activity – can be refused entry to premises or be asked to leave.

The case illustrates that even with gang presence in the Abbotsford area significantly reduced in recent years, the voluntary program continues to target those with criminal associations.

It’s a sign of success that walkthroughs by police have decreased since the Bar Watch program was put in place in 2009, according to Paul Esposito Sr., whose Esposito Group oversees the Phoenix Lounge and Finnegan’s Pub on King Road.

“It’s been very effective,” Esposito said, crediting the program for increasing the safety of staff and patrons at restaurants.

Bar Watch operates independently of the police, but gives officers the right to eject patrons who are deemed to have criminal associations.

Abbotsford Police Const. Ian MacDonald said the program was key in establishing a community front against the gang issues that plagued Abbotsford in the late 2000s.

He said the program not only provided tools to establishments hoping to decrease the risk of violence, but it also sent a “hugely important statement” that businesses weren’t willing to accommodate those involved in gang lifestyles.

MacDonald said those targeted by the program will often start settling bills as soon as police arrive at an establishment. Other times, they may object to being asked to leave, but MacDonald said such protestations are often about making a visible show of strength.

According to police, about 18 businesses are either members or have expressed interest in joining the program in Abbotsford.

The incident reviewed by the tribunal took place June 27 of last year at the Cactus Club Cafe.

According to documents released last week, RS was attending a birthday celebration for her brother, who was charged but never convicted nine years ago of drug trafficking. About 20 people were at the dinner, and the manager called police at about 10:30 p.m. when he noticed some members of the group smoking marijuana outside the front entrance.

The tribunal documents state that when police arrived, several members of RS’s group left the restaurant, while 13 remained.

Police examined the individuals’ ID and did computer checks, after which officers advised them to “settle up and leave.”

RS, who does not have a criminal background, alleged that the actions were discriminatory, based only on her family status, and were an “affront” to her civil liberties.

“She further submits that the police, acting as agents of the respondent (Cactus Club), had no valid reason to ask her or any member of her party to leave and, in doing so, treated her like a criminal,”  the documents state.

Of the 13 members of RS’s group who had remained on scene after police arrived, six men had “serious criminal and/or drug associations,” according to the tribunal. The other seven were women with no criminal records.

Cactus Club argued that the complaint should be dismissed because staff did not discriminate against RS, as she had not been denied service and had paid her bill prior to police arriving.

The restaurant also argued that it was police, not restaurant staff, who asked the group to leave.

Sharma stated in her written decision that police acted arbitrarily when suggesting that everyone in the group, including the seven women, leave the restaurant.

However, RS’s complaint did not constitute a human rights violation, as she could not  prove one of the elements required to succeed at a hearing – that her family status had been a factor.

Sharma said there was no evidence that Cactus Club or the police were aware of RS’s familial relationship, and she would have been asked to leave even if her brother had not been present.

“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,” Sharma stated.

In a written statement to The News, Cactus Club said it “is a strong supporter of the Bar/Restaurant Watch program. We appreciate all that the Abbotsford Police Department does to ensure the safety and security of the community, including the guests and employees in our restaurant.”

Bar Watch programs have been challenged several times in British Columbia courts and Human Rights Tribunals. In 2010, the tribunal ruled that a Kamloops Bar Watch directive prohibiting muscle shirts on men – but allowing them for women – did not breach a complainant’s rights and was “reasonably necessary to maintain a safe night club experience.”

In 2013, though, a court ruled that a Vancouver bar had breached the rights of three South Asian complainants who said they were denied entry because of their race.

 

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has dismissed a complaint from a woman who says she she was kicked out of an Abbotsford restaurant in June 2014 because of her brother’s criminal history.

The woman, identified in tribunal documents only by the initials RS, said she had been discriminated against because of her “family status,” and the incident resulted in her feeling humiliated and as if she were a criminal.

The incident took place June 27 of last year at the Cactus Club Cafe on Sumas Way in Abbotsford.

According to the documents, released on April 2, RS was attending a birthday celebration for her brother, who was charged but never convicted nine years ago of drug trafficking.

About 20 people were at the dinner, and the manager called police at about 10:30 p.m. when he noticed some members of the group smoking marijuana outside the front entrance.

Cactus Club is a member of the Bar Watch program, through which people deemed to be “undesirable” or “troublemakers” – by virtue of their behaviour or involvement in serious and/or violent criminal activity – can be refused entry to premises or be asked to leave.

The tribunal documents state that when police arrived on the scene, several members of RS’s group left the restaurant, while 13 remained.

Police examined the individuals’ ID and did computer checks, after which officers advised them  to “settle up and leave” the restaurant.

RS, who does not have a criminal background, alleged that the actions were discriminatory, were based only on her family status and were an “affront” to her civil liberties.

“She further submits that the police, acting as agents of the respondent (Cactus Club), had no valid reason to ask her or any member of her party to leave and, in doing so, treated her like a criminal,”  the tribunal documents state.

Of the 13 members of RS’s group who had remained on scene after police arrived, six men had “serious criminal and/or drug associations,” according to the tribunal documents. The other seven were women with no criminal records.

Cactus Club argued that the complaint should be dismissed because staff did not discriminate against RS, as she had not been denied service and had paid her bill prior to police arriving.

The restaurant also argued that it was police, not restaurant staff, who asked the group to leave.

Tribunal member Parnesh Sharma stated in her written decision that police acted arbitrarily when suggesting that everyone in the group, including the seven women, leave the restaurant.

However, RS’s complaint did not constitute a human rights violation, as she could not  prove one of the elements required to succeed at a hearing – that her family status had been a factor.

Sharma said there was no evidence that Cactus Club or the police were aware of RS’s familial relationship, and she would have been asked to leave even if her brother had not been present.

“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,” Sharma stated.

 

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