Citing drunken and disorderly conduct, some bars near a southern Alberta military training base are banning British soldiers.
Bars in Medicine Hat are used to serving British military personnel who work or train at Canadian Forces Base Suffield, 50 kilometres west of the city. But run-ins with theft, vandalism and drunkenness have some bars refusing entry to British soldiers.
Stuart Hardiker, who has served in both the British army and the Canadian military, said he asked a hostess at one bar about a sign reading, No British Soldiers Allowed.
"She explained that, that soldiers get drunk and they throw up. And I said, 'Well, do Canadians not get drunk, and you know, do they not throw up?' Is it not the licensee of that establishment's legal obligation to monitor the consumption of alcohol to the patrons?" he told CBC News Thursday.
Another pub posted a sign to the attention of British soldiers requiring them to show proof of Alberta residency — effectively banning their access.
The British military has been using CFB Suffield as a training facility since 1971, and it's estimated it injects about $100 million into the local economy. The majority of Brits at Suffield are support staff, but the bars say their problems are with visiting trainees who are battle troops.
Some bars report incidents of soldiers urinating and vomiting in their establishments, as well as stealing tips from waitresses and exposing themselves to other customers.
"I'm not barring them because they're battle groups, I'm barring them because of what they're doing in here," Ross Beach, owner of Rossco's Pub, told the Medicine Hat News.
He accepts it's a case of a few bad apples, but said the soldiers' behaviour is unfair to his patrons and cleaning staff.
However, Gord Callaghan of O'Riley's Irish Pub said he's dealt with only a few incidents involving British soldiers over the years, pointing out he's had trouble with all kinds of people who get drunk.
Former soldier says policy is discriminatory
Hardiker estimates that he's been turned away from bars about 25 times since moving to the city of about 60,000 people 12 years ago. Often, it's at night, but he said he was refused service once at lunch time when he was accompanied by his wife.
Hardiker said he was embarrassed recently when he tried to take visitors from the United Kingdom out for a few drinks —and bar staff told him, "Sorry, no Brits allowed today."
"It embarrasses me as a resident of Canada … because of the fact that Canada prides itself throughout the world as being a nation thriving on its human rights, and yet we refuse soldiers that are here to train to be deployed in operational conflicts around the world … in a country that is supposed to be part of the British Commonwealth."
Hardiker is no longer a soldier, but said he's been refused service because of his accent — which he believes is discriminatory.
The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Act says businesses can refuse service to people who might pose a threat to the patrons, staff or property, and the Alberta Human Rights Act states they cannot discriminate against people on grounds of race, colour, ancestry or place of origin.
At the same time, the Human Rights Act also has a clause that allows a business to discriminate against a customer if there's proof of reasonable and justifiable causes.