By Patrick B. Craine
ST. CATHERINES, Ontario, November 11, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A gym owner in St. Catharines, Ontario, spoke out against the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) yesterday, complaining that, after he had been dragged through the system for three years and spent tens of thousands of dollars fighting a complaint brought against him by a gender-confused man, the case was ultimately dropped.
In recent years the Canadian Human Rights Commission system has come under heavy fire from critics. One of the major criticisms that has been levelled against the system is that people who launch complaints have their legal fees covered by the government, while those responding to the complaints are required to pay their own legal fees. The result is that most respondents will have to spend tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees defending themselves, even if they win the case – ensuring that, in the words of HRC critic Ezra Levant, “the process is the punishment.”
The dispute began in the summer of 2006, when a man, calling himself Lisa MacDonald, sought membership in John Fulton's fitness club for women. The man insisted not only on joining the club, but on using the women's change room and bathroom, despite Fulton's efforts to offer alternative solutions. MacDonald refused, however, to consider any other possibilities and threatened legal action.
MacDonald filed his complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission on August 4th, 2006, making a claim for damages. The case continued despite the fact that he later moved to Ottawa, never actually joining the gym. Then, this past August 29th, he sought to withdraw his complaint, a request which was accepted by the commission on October 19th.
“It's like I've been terrorized by this for years,” Fulton told CanWest. “I wanted to take them to task. I didn't want to settle and pay them. I told them that they weren't going to get a penny from me. I didn't care if I ended up homeless because of this.”
“Not only did I not get my day in court, I was bad-mouthed,” he told the St. Catherines Standard. “They put me through hell for three years and at the 11th hour, they dropped it. … There really was no resolution … and my costs with this are huge.”
While he would not reveal his legal expenses, he said the bulk of his costs went to pay his expensive Toronto lawyer in preparation for the proceedings. He indicated, further, that he spent $100,000 renovating the change rooms to allow for more privacy.
According to Fulton, the Commission pushed him to pay MacDonald. “They told me that I had to pay her legal fees, write a letter of apology admitting guilt and I could make it go away,” he said. “To be honest, I didn't know what to do and I wanted … a tribunal decision. I'm stubborn.”
Fulton made his own request for compensation, claiming loss of time and money as well as damage done to him as result of being accused of discrimination.
Commission adjudicator Kaye Joachim denied his request, however. She also denied his claim that MacDonald had abused the human rights process.
Fulton's lawyer, Andrew Roman, told the St. Catherines Standard that they will be responding to Joachim's decision. “I'll be taking steps to deal with that,” he said. “We are planning to take certain steps I (can't) discuss right now.”
“The way the tribunal is set up now, the complainant is rewarded for taking a risk-free grab at a big bag of money,” he added.
Fulton says he is, in fact, supportive of the homosexual agenda, and says he has let another gender-confused man use his gym so long as he changes at home. “I have been a proud supporter of gay, lesbian and transgender issued for the past decade in St. Catharines,” he told Canwest. “They're picking on the wrong guy. The OHRC needs to be rejigged … before other people end up being in a situation where they feel like they're being extorted.”