A Saskatchewan judge has ruled in favour of a First Nations man who says he was discriminated against when he was ejected from a Saskatoon restaurant in 2006.
The case concerns Leslie Tataquason, who was previously awarded $7,000 after a human rights tribunal found he was denied service at a Howard Johnson restaurant on the basis of his ancestry, contrary to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code.
At the earlier hearing, Tataquason testified his wife worked at the Howard Johnson and that on June 8, 2006, while he was having coffee with her, manager John Pontes said "Can't you see she's working? Get out, this isn't the Friendship Centre."
Tataquason said he was deeply hurt, and spiralled into depression as a result. In the weeks after the incident, "he thought of suicide, fell into addictions, went through a separation from his wife, lost his job, received treatment from psychologists and became a frequenter of petty crime and homelessness."
He said he believed the reaction was so extreme because it triggered memories of the emotional, physical and sexual abuse he had suffered at residential schools and foster homes.
The sole member of the human rights tribunal, Donald Worme, released his decision Nov. 6, 2008 finding that Pontes discriminated against Tataquason when he denied him a service customarily offered to the public.
The tribunal decision was referred to the courts by the Howard Johnson Inn (now called the Northwoods Inn & Suites) and Pontes.
Now, in a ruling recently published on the internet, Queen's Bench Justice Robert Laing has dismissed the appeal.
Pontes, who didn't testify at the tribunal, had asked the judge to consider his version of events.
His appeal also questioned whether Worme was impartial. It said errors of law were made and questioned whether there had been a reference to the "Friendship Centre" or the "Friendship Inn."
However, Laing, the chief justice of the court of Queen's Bench, rejected all the arguments and said if Pontes had wanted to give his side of the story, he should have given his evidence the first time.
Regardless of whether Pontes said "Friendship Centre" or "Friendship Inn," the insinuation was the same, Laing said: the restaurant was not a gathering place for aboriginal people.
The Friendship Centre refers to a centre that assists aboriginal people who move to Saskatoon, the judge said. The tribunal had earlier been told that the Friendship Inn is a downtown establishment that provides free meals to needy people.
Laing also wrote that the tribunal's order that Tataquason be paid $7,000 was reasonable.