Tony Smith human rights commission hearing begins

A former addictions counsellor who worked for Capital District Health is back before the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission for a second time.

Smith, a former addictions counsellor, says he was stereotyped by Capital Health supervisor

A former addictions counsellor who worked for Capital District Health is back before the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission for a second time.

Tony Smith is black and claims that in 1990 his supervisor on the drug dependency unit where he worked stereotyped him when assigning patients.

Smith says the supervisor told him that in "the event pimps and pushers came to the unit, you will be taking care of it."

He complained to the human rights commission in 1994, but the supervisor denied saying what's alleged and Smith's claim was rejected by the commission.

Smith says that decision "made him vulnerable to retaliation" at work where he continued as an addictions counsellor in the Choices program.

"I have been abused," Smith told reporters covering the first day of what is expected to be a three week hearing in front of adjudicator Don Murray.

"It's well documented and I want to tell my story."

His account includes repeated but so far unsubstantiated allegations that it was his initial complaint that resulted in him losing his daytime counselling job and being re-assigned to shift work in a residential setting.  

His supervisor, Tom Payette, said the move was the result of a task force recommendation. Smith claims he was passed over a couple of times there were openings for a daytime counsellor.

After writing letters and filing grievances through the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, Smith got a position in 1999 as a daytime activity coordinator at Choices, a substance abuse treatment program for adolescents.
    
Two years later, after a positive performance review, Smith was diagnosed with depression that kept him off work and receiving disability benefits from 2001 to 2004. Prior to that, supervisors at Capital Health mental health had questioned the amount of sick time he was booking off. 

He says he took early retirement in 2012 due to depression.

Peter Rogers, the lawyer for Capital Health, declined comment today. Capital Health will tell its side of the story later this month.

Smith is also looking for some financial compensation from the province for failing to have promoted him at work.

He was a leader in a recent successful class action brought by former residents of the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children against the province.