Mayor faces discrimination fee
By Maija Ambrogio
The Human Rights Commission of Ontario's Board of Inquiry announced its decision last week concerning London Mayor Diane Haskett's refusal to proclaim a Gay Pride weekend in 1995.
The deliberations lasted over 11 hours and concluded that Mayor Haskett and London's City Council acted in a discriminatory manner on the basis of sexual orientation, said Dan Wilson, chair of the Homophile Association of London Ontario's political action committee.
"This was an expected decision. It was a clear cut case of discrimination," Wilson said.
Richard Hudler, president of HALO at the time of the desired proclamation by Haskett, requested $10,000 from city council, $10,000 from Haskett as well as a legal defense fund.
The Board, however, decided city council and Haskett together would be responsible for paying Hudler $10,000. This amount will just barely cover legal costs, he said. As well, if HALO were to request another proclamation, the city is required to issue it, Wilson said.
It was hoped the money could have been used to make donations to organizations such as the Coalition of Lesbian and Gay Rights of Ontario and youth groups in London including Western's uwOUT! club, Hudler said.
Alexa Duggan, president of uwOUT!, said she is pleased Haskett's discriminatory behaviour was not excused because of her personal religious beliefs. "I think, however, she will continue to feel like the victim."
Haskett said she is very disheartened by the situation and feels the Board's decision was a wrong interpretation of the facts and the law.
The Mayor said she followed her policy which allows her to remain silent on issues of sexuality and abortion. She said this policy is fair to both sides of the issue and her right to remain silent adheres to the freedom of expression.
"The decision by the Board implies that a person can be forced to say something that goes against their religious beliefs," Haskett said, adding this is also contradictory to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Concerning the $10,000 to be awarded to to Hudler, Haskett said the consequences and implications are far reaching.
HALO, however, is overjoyed the discrimination on behalf of Haskett was recognized, Wilson said. "It is hoped this decision will be used to build a more tolerant community," he added.
In order to ensure this type of discrimination does not happen again, HALO has decided to poll local candidates running for mayor, city council and school board positions on their attitudes of issues concerning the gay, lesbian and bi-sexual population, Wilson said.