Company of former Vegreville mayor ordered to pay $56K in discrimination case

The former mayor of Vegreville's refusal to hire a gay, Indigenous man will cost his company more than $56,000 for lost wages and damages.

Tribunal chair finds Indigenous heritage and sexual orientation both factors in not being hired

Alberta's Human Rights Tribunal has ordered a company partly owned by the former Vegreville mayor to pay $56,000 after failing to hire an Indigenous, gay man. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)

The former mayor of Vegreville's refusal to hire a gay, Indigenous man will cost his company more than $56,000 for lost wages and damages.

Vegreville Autobody — which is partly owned by former mayor Myron Hayduk — violated the Alberta Human Rights Act when it didn't hire Rambo Landry, the Human Rights Tribunal of Alberta found earlier this month.

Landry, who is of Dene First Nations heritage, is married to an RCMP staff sergeant.

"I find that Mr. Landry's race, sexual orientation and marital status were factors in the respondent's decision not to hire him," wrote tribunal chair Karen Scott.

The decision was released on October 17, one day after Hayduk lost his bid for re-election by just 41 votes.

Hayduk has declined comment at this time. Landry could not be reached. Vegreville's mayor and council did not respond to a request for comment.

'Straight people bullied to accept gay people'

On August 27, 2014, Landry, a business administration student and former employee of the Northwest Territories government, was interviewed for an office assistant job with Vegreville Autobody by then mayor Hayduk.

After some initial discussion, Landry said he was "taken aback" when asked what he would do if a customer had an issue with his sexual orientation.

Landry recalled saying everyone is entitled to their opinion, but if physically threatened, he must defend himself.

He said he explained it was a lesson he learned as the target of bullies as a child.

In response, according to the decision, Landry said Hayduk told him he didn't believe in political correctness, and "that straight people are bullied to accept gay people and that, because straight people are the majority, the tide will eventually turn against gay people."

That's one of several such alleged discriminatory interactions during the 75-minute interview highlighted in the ruling.

According to Scott, Hayduk acknowledged his comment about political correctness. He denied making other inappropriate statements but later said he may have done so, the ruling added.

Scott found Landry's evidence consistent in contrast to Hayduk's testimony, which she said evolved and was at times evasive.  

Preference for employee who wasn't racial minority, gay

"Mr. Hayduk's comments to Mr. Landry in the interview indicated a preference for an employee who was not a racial minority, gay or married to an RCMP officer," wrote Scott.

"This supports a finding that Mr. Landry's race, sexual orientation and marital status were factors in the respondent's decision not to hire him."

Scott said the evidence did not support Hayduk's assertion that he considered the successful candidate to be more qualified.

Landry also accused Hayduk of stating during their interview that "Natives" are the minority in Vegreville and that Catholics believe marriage is between a man and a woman.

The decision said that Landry testified he became depressed and his grades slipped after the interview.

He and his husband began travelling an additional 45 minutes to do their shopping while Landry's husband looked for a promotion so they could relocate. The couple transferred to a nearby town in July 2015.

A registered psychologist who counselled the couple testified that the interview triggered symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, which Landry initially "after being severely bullied and assaulted" in his youth.

During his testimony, Hayduk was asked if he knew anything about the race, religion or sexual orientation of the successful candidate. According to the decision, he answered: "She looks whiter than me."

with files from Nola Keeler