Thursday, May 21, 2009

Viola Landry - Ontario HRC

Viola Landry and the Popeye Restaurant

Viola Landry operated the Popeye Restaurant on Main Street in Geraldton Ontario, a small town in northern Ontario, about 1,200 kilometres from Toronto, about 300 kilometres from Thunder Bay, and 30 kilometres off the Trans Canada Highway, with a population of about 6,500 people. If you are there it is because you want to be there.

One of Geraldton's mottos is "The Friendly Town with a Heart of Gold". Friendly, yes. But stupid, not so much. At least until the storm troopers from the Ontario HRC came marching into town to set things right.

You see, Ms. Landry hired a Ms. Giguere to come and work for her in her restaurant. But, it so happened that Ms. Giguere was in a common-law relationship with a man who was HIV-positive and also had Hepatitis C. Apparently, she had disclosed this to Ms. Landry, who at the time did not see it as a concern.

But then about 2 weeks later, Ms. Landry terminated Ms. Giguere apparently because of customer complaints related to her common-law spouse, and the concern of customers that Ms. Giguere had or might contract the AIDS virus.

Interestingly enough, under Ontario Labour Law, an employee with less than 3 months service can be terminated without cause and without notice, which Ms. Landry did to Ms. Giguere.

But Ms. Giguere appeared to be smarter than the average bear, of which there are a few in the area, and her Heart was interested in the Gold. So, she filed a complaint with the Ontario HRC for discrimination due to Association.

This was found to have been such a significant case and so egregious in its implications that the Ontario HRC reported it in its 2008 annual report. You know you have arrived when you make the annual report.

Anyway, at the Human Rights Tribunal it was found that Ms. Giguere was fired because of her association with a person with a disability. Further, the Tribunal ruled that "a business owner is not entitled to terminate an employee because they feel their business will suffer because of the views of customers, where those views are related to proscribed grounds of discrimination."

The ninnies at the Ontario Tribunal overruled Ontario Labour Law, and of course common sense, and good business practice. You see, Ms. Landry knew something that the people of the Ontario HRC did not. The people of Geraldton had 6 other restaurants in town to choose from, and if they were concerned for their health by eating in hers, they could choose to go elsewhere. The people of Geraldton made it clear to Ms. Landry that they considered it a risk to eat at the Popeye of Ms. Giguere was working there.

In the end it no longer matters, since Ms. Landry doesn't have the restaurant any more. She now works as the caterer at the local golf course. I hope to contact her and find out what impact the stress and strain of the HRC pounding on her door trying to convince her that common sense was no longer common any more, or even desirable.

Oh, and by the way, Ms. Giguere turned out to not be so lily white in her dealings with the tribunal. She seems to have offered money to someone to give testimony to the Tribunal. With the tricks that the Tribunal is alleged to not be above using to get testimony themselves, it surprises me that they noticed that she had abused their process.

So, the Tribunal in a magnanimous gesture refused to award the Claimant any damages. However, they made Ms. Landry commit to making a charitable donation of $2,500 to an HIV/AIDS related organization in the area. To add insult to injury, they rubbed her nose in it further, and ordered Ms. Landry to post Human Rights Code cards at the restaurant. This was probably to show all those people in "The Friendly Town with a Heart of Gold" who had dared to complain about Ms. Giguere that that was a No No.

What they should have done was have added all the residents of Geraldton to the complaint and then have sent them all for sensitivity training. Then they could have rewritten their motto to "The Really Pissed Off Town that hates those Assholes from Toronto", but only after they got their completion certificates.


Brian said...

It scares me that you think it is okay to fire someone because they are in a relationship with someone with HIV or Hep C. Is it okay to fire someone because they marry a minority? Or how about someone who is gay? Racists and homophobes might take their business elsewhere so does that make it free game for those groups to be discriminated against??

You say that the “people of Geraldton made it clear to Ms. Landry that they considered it a risk to eat at the Popeye of Ms. Giguere was working there.”. Really? You honestly think that everyone from the town felt this way? Or is it more likely that a few IGNORANT people complained??

If you owned a business in a racist town I am sure it would be better for business to fire anyone who is black or a minority...but this certainly doesn’t make it right. I wish you would make that distinction.

We can argue about the rights of a business owner to do what’s best for business and maybe the owner should have the right to hire or fire people for any reason, that’s not what I am arguing.

But what Ms. Leary did is give in to a few misinformed people and lacked compassion. And your defence of those actions is stunning.

Nothing like a little hysteria to make people act without compassion.

It sounds like those misinformed few that still think you can get AIDS from a toilet seat or touching a person. What that situation called for is an owner to stand up for her employee and maybe offer a bit of free education on AIDS to those who complained. I wonder if those people who complained ask their doctors or surgeons or dentists if they have ever operated on someone with a communicable disease? I am guessing not.

Although I often disagree with your point of view, I usually can appreciate your argument. You always talk of people doing the right thing and not needing the HRC. Are you really saying that Ms. Landry did the right thing here? Not whether or not she should have the legal right but if it was morally right.

MBrandon said...

Dear Brian:

Thank you for your comments. It was my understanding that Ms. Landry was in the right under Ontario Labour law to terminate a short term employee without cause in the first 3 months of her employment.

Under the law, no reason for termination is required.

That said logic prevails in my mind at least. The common law partner of someone who is HIV positive is at risk for HIV, making all those who have certain types of contact with her at risk as well. Yes, you cannot get HIV from toilet seats, but the science on HIV is far from settled.

This case to me did not seem to be about Human Rights, but about common sense, and common sense, in this particular case would mitigate against a person working in food service who was at risk for a serious disease and for transmission of that disease to others.

In a case in BC, the HRC found against McDonald's and their policy on hand washing, the purpose of which is to protect employees and customers, because one staff member felt discriminated against because she had a skin condition that prevented her from washing her hands. She walked away with a load of cash, and common sense was left at the court house steps.

"Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread."

Brian said...

Again, I do not wish to discuss this from a legal point of view. It is also my understanding that Ms. Landy had every legal right to terminate someone in this circumstance. No argument here.

My issue is whether or not what she did was morally right. First off, your assertion that “the science on HIV is far from settled.” Simply does not ring true. What exactly are you saying? (Q1)

I can totally appreciate your position of wanting to protect people from communicable disease. BUT, Mrs. Landy didn’t see a problem with it, as you yourself said. It wasn’t until a few ignorant and fearful people decided to complain...again not the entire town of Geraldton as you implied. That is simply incorrect and unfair to the people of Geraldton.

Please list the occupation that someone with, or in relationships with, someone with HIV should be banned? I know you think food services is out. What about Doctors that operate on people with communicable diseases? It could be argued that they too pose a risk to their patients. Teachers? Police? Nurses? Firefighters? Preachers?

If it is such a legitimate concern to public safety...please list those occupations that should be prohibited. (Q2)

Banning anyone who has contact with someone HIV to these areas of unemployment is not only unfair and uninformed but unethical.

Regardless, do you think what Mrs. Landry did was the morally right thing to do? (Q3)

Consider, Mrs. Landry was perfectly fine with the facts prior to some complaints from a few ignorant people. But she then turned her back on her employee because of a few people (misguided and uniformed as they were) complained.

Should Mrs. Landry be prosecuted for endangering public safety?? Honestly...If it is such a legitimate concern to public safety and if Mrs. Landry knew employees background when she hired her...should she be liable or prosecuted for endangering the public???? (Q4)

I don’t see that you can have it both ways.

“Prejudices are what fools use for reasons” - Voltaire

MBrandon said...

Who are you really?

Why do you care what I think?

I see your IP address came form Trenton, Ontario, and that you are running Vista as your operating system, and that your IP address is

Brian said...

Not quite the response I was expecting...Thanks for posting my IP address. I don’t see what any of that has to do with the issues at hand. And by the way...I do not live in Trenton!

So who am I?? I am someone who is also concerned with Human Rights...but often from a different angle then yourself.

You put your thoughts out there for the world to hear and discuss if they choose. I apologize if I was mistaken to think that your blog posts were open to free discussion.

I was simply attempting to expand the dialogue and possibly understand where your coming from. Perhaps offering a different viewpoint to you and those who read your blog.

So if you wish to reply to my previous questions that would be great. I do enjoy the discussion.

“Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear” – George Orwell

MBrandon said...


Though your questions are intriguing ones, I don't have the foggiest idea how to answer them.

The way they came across to me I checked your IP address to be certain that it was not someone from the Ontario HRC baiting me into saying something I might regret later.

This is a posting that I wrote over a year ago. I certainly do not have the mental capacity since my accident a few years ago to remember much past lunch, so if I was inclined to review this case once again, it would be a serious piece of work for me.

But, as simply as I can put it Violet Landry had a restaurant. In no small measure because of the HRC complaint against her, which found contrary to Labour Relations law in this province, she ended up losing her business, and is now the catering manager at the local golf club.

As for Ms. Giguerre, she probably has a job working for someone else in town or somewhere else.

The law says Mrs. Landry could terminate a short term employee with out recourse, which she chose to do.

We only know a few facts that were reported in the case decision.

I have no interest in second guessing any more than I did at the time as to who said what to who and why and whether that was morally right or not.

I have enough trouble trying to live my life according to the moral values that I espouse.

The HRC boat has sailed for me, and I am not on it. I write about things I am passionate about, and that ain't it, and things that I understand.

I realised that I do not really understand the workings of the HRCs in this country, and it is not a craziness that I want to devote my time to.

When a person cannot chose whom they wish to retain as an employee, or now in fact who they even can choose over another person when they post a job opportunity, this gets way too crazy for me.

Someone very close to me was and still remains the victim of the Ontario HRC taking on complaints that had no bearing in law, and were cooked up to appear to be ethnic discrimination, which only means that my friend was white, and the litigants were not.

Now, in this province and in this country, you are guilty if you are white even if you can prove you are not, and you are considered innocent if you are a member of some mythical disadvantaged group.

It's not fair. It's not reasonable, yet our government has spawned it.

Brian said...

(Post 1/2) Thank you for your reply. I can appreciate that you have moved past this issue so will no belabour the point. To be honest when I first replied I did not even think to check the date it was written. For this I apologize.

As for being from the HRC, I am not. I can appreciate your scepticism as I did read one of your posts about how someone from the Justice Department was looking into your site for several hours. That is unfortunate that you cannot put forth your views without being viewed as an enemy of the state. And I honestly do believe that there are many from the HRC who would love to have your head.

I think you do have a very good understanding of the HRC, from everything I have read. Definitely a more thorough understanding than I can claim. I do think that you may possibly be slightly jaded by your personal experiences with the failings (really an outright abuse) perpetrated by the HRC.

I cannot fault you or anyone for that. You have every right to look into their decisions and handling of cases with a critical eye. It is good that the HRC is held in check to some degree....even if it is only by oversight from the citizens and not kept in check by the government itself.

The case of your principal friend really is shocking and ridiculous! The treated of the Reverend from Alberta, regardless of my strong personal opposition to his views, was an outright affront to free speech. Plain and simple. I do not want to live in a country where we cannot state our opinions. You really are not exaggerating by saying that your principal friend was a victim of the HRC. In that case, it appears that they were the only ones victimized. Which is shameful!

I could not imagine how terrible it was for your friend to have gone through such a travesty of justice. To be publicly chastised for being discriminatory against minorities is a stain against your friends character that even the truth cannot wash away.

I must also agree with your comment regarding being guilty of being white. As a white male I too see reverse discrimination in everything from hiring practices to being more susceptible to bogus claims of discrimination. Your right. If I was to fire a minority because they were horrible at their job it is far too easy for me to be painted as a racist rather than admitting the truth that the person was just horrible at their job. That is a fact and is a form of discrimination itself.

Brian said...

(Post 2/2)
I think that perhaps we just may differ in how we approach or examine the issue of Human Rights. I feel that you are trying to bring to light the many miscarriages of justice that occur as a result of the HRC from an unchecked power and initiated by many unscrupulous people out for a quick buck at the expense of everyone else.

And this is to be commended. I do appreciate hearing about these cases. If not for your writings one might be inclined to view the HRC as sunshine and lollipops without realizing that it is not always this clear cut and in fact the HRC itself discriminates and victimizes people.

But because of my personal experiences I tend to examine the issue from the perspective of those who truly have been victims of real discrimination. I know it exists and am happy that there is some venue to hold those responsibly accountable. But I cannot say with any certainty that the HRC is definitely the right approach to deal with such issues. It certainly has major short comings which your posts brings to light.

Finally, your call for commonsense to prevail is a good one. Your principal friend was the victim of people acting without commonsense. You frequently say, something to the affect that, once the HRC has a target and tastes blood in the water they are ravenous sharks with tunnel vision set solely on destroying their target. This is unfortunate, unfair and unacceptable.

So we can agree that the HRC has major problems and that unethical people abuse the system and victimizes innocent people in the process. However, I am still glad that there is an avenue to hold those individuals accountable who do actually discriminate and to protect those who really are victims of discrimination. Which I have personally seen. But perhaps the problems with the HRC are so deep rooted and intertwined within the culture of the HRC as to be beyond repair.

But whether or not it is the HRC or a new organization is developed to protect the Rights of ALL Canadians, I hope we can agree that there is a need to ensure that everyone’s Human Rights are respected EQUALLY, not placing one groups over that of another.

So in conclusion, thank you for your posts on this topic. They have brought many issues to light and helped me examine my own views on the HRC and Human Rights. While I don’t always agree. They are always interesting, well written and informative.

So a sincere Thank You.

MBrandon said...

I couldn't think of a good way to answer you in comments, so made a new posting about the thought process that you have engendered in me.

Thank you.


MBrandon said...


I thought that your two part comment was worthy of its own post and so have put it out today.

Thank you for taking the time to write to me.

God Bless You