B.C. Human Rights Tribunal

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal is looking into the case of Victoria real estate agent Rick Allenberg, who alleges a client who is black broke a contract with him because he's white and originally from South Africa.

A Victoria real estate agent has filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal over an unusual allegation of racial profiling.

Rick Allenberg is white and originally from South Africa. Because of that, he claims, a black client decided Allenberg was likely racist, so broke a contract with the realtor.          

"You know what? I'm Canadian," says Allenberg, who moved to Canada from South Africa 25 years ago

He says he left precisely because of apartheid, which segregated whites from blacks, so the real estate agent says he was floored when a client allegedly told him he was cancelling a listing because he doesn't trust white South Africans.

"It cut right to the core of who I am and it was an assumption that made me very, very angry."

Racially biased?

According to the tribunal documents, the client, Dr. Roger J. Johnson, identifies as a gay, multiracial black person.

Johnson couldn't be reached for comment, but in his response to Allenberg's claim, he called the realtor a "racist white South African," according to the tribunal's documents.  

"Johnson’s response contains statements that he 'suspects Mr. Allenberg to be racially biased toward him' and that he 'is a racist white South African,'" said a ruling issued by the tribunal on July 10 to decide if the case would proceed.

"Much of Mr. Johnson’s response concerns Mr. Allenberg’s business practices, which are of questionable relevance in the context of this complaint of discrimination. Mr. Johnson admits he told Mr. Allenberg that the fact he is white South African bothered him and made it impossible to trust him."

Damaging allegations

Allenberg says those allegations hurt him and his family, and, he fears, his reputation.

"That's discrimination on the basis of colour, country of origin and all sorts of things.

"It doesn't matter where I come from or who I was or what I was. The principle of profiling somebody and then terminating a contract with them on that basis is absolutely against everything this country stands for," said Allenberg.

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal rejected an application by Johnson for extra time to file an application to have the case dismissed and set a hearing date for later this month.

But chair Bernd Walter also strongly recommended the two attempt to work out the problem between themselves before the legal bills start to mount.  

"I cannot recommend strongly enough that the parties make every conceivable effort to resolve the complaint without the acrimony and, indeed, the expense of a protracted evidentiary hearing," wrote Walter in the ruling.

With files from Jason Proctor