Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan man says treatment of Confederate flag unfair, files complaint

Dale Pippin says the negative treatment of the Confederate flag is slanderous and discriminates against his family's heritage. He says has filed a formal complaint.

Dale Pippin says he filed a complaint with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission

Dale Pippin proudly displays the confederate flag. (southsasksoutherner.blogspot.ca)

For Dale Pippin, the Confederate flag is a proud symbol of his southern heritage.

For many others, the banner is a symbol of racism and slavery. 

Recently, South Carolina removed the battle flag from the state capitol grounds after weeks of emotional debate over it.

The Regina man told CBC News that recent public treatment of the symbol, in the province, prompted his formal complaint to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (SHRC).

In a letter, which Pippin claims he submitted to the SHRC on July 1, he cites local media coverage and a Saskatoon flag shop owner's decision to stop selling the flag as instances of discrimination.

"I was under the impression that we are in a free country. In this free country we call Canada we ensure that the lineage and history of minorities is protected and not discriminated against," he wrote in the letter.

A weak case

Beth Bilson, Interim Dean of the College of Law at the University of Saskatchewan. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC News)

CBC News spoke with several legal experts and asked them to assess the validity of Pippin's formal SHRC complaint. All agreed his case, as presented, is weak.

Beth Bilson, Interim Dean of the College of Law at the University of Saskatchewan, said she would be surprised if the SHRC considered Pippin's complaint for mediation.

"The debate is really about what the flag represents," Bilson said. 

"What the media has done, in Canada, is to try and engage people in that discussion," she said. "That seems to be what he is objecting to."

Bilson noted Pippin's complaint letter failed to clearly identify any one person or organization responsible for the offence he claims to have endured.

"I can't speak to what the Human Rights Commission will do with this complaint, if it has in fact been filed as a complaint, it seems to me unlikely that they would see that it requires further assessment or adjudication."

Bilson also said Pippin's case is weak as he does not cite specific proof of damage or harm.

"Basically the Human Rights Code is meant to protect people who are at some sort of social disadvantage. I believe that Mr. Pippin makes some argument that he is a member of a minority and that he is therefore worthy of protection under the Human Rights Commission, but it certainly isn't one of the listed grounds," Bilson said.

"I think it would be surprising if somebody who is, in fact, a member of the racial majority in Canada and in Saskatchewan, that the Human Rights Code would be seen as protecting them through recourse to the Human Rights Commission."

Pippin promises to organize confederate flag events in Sask.

Pippin declined an interview with CBC News on Tuesday. He said he had received "hard hits" at the hands of online commenters after recently sharing his views publicly.

However, he did issue a statement in which he wrote:

"My sincerest apologies to anyone unable to distinguish a person proud of his family's history as opposed to spreading a racist or white supremacist message. I have come forward to help people understand bad politics, and remind people we are in Canada."

In his complaint letter, Pippin wrote he plans to organize Confederate flag marches and events "to correctly remember what the Confederacy stood for. Parades are allowed for other minorities wishing to celebrate their pride, so perhaps a better understanding will be reached with repeated public events."

What constitutes a valid SHRC complaint?

The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission said it received more than 400 complaints last year, 142 of which were settled in mediation. The rest of these hundreds of complaints were either dropped by the complainant or deemed invalid by the SHRC.

In order for a complaint to be considered valid after submission, an SHRC intake officer will assess it to ensure it:

  1. Is within the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission's jurisdiction
  2. presents reasonable grounds for discrimination
  3. a respondent to the complaint is named

If it meets this criteria, the complaint is directed to mediation, where an SHRC member will work with involved parties to find a solution.

If an agreement cannot be reached in mediation, the complaint is forwarded to a SHRC investigator.

If the Commission believes there is enough evidence to suggest that allegations made in the complaint are true, and that those allegations reflect discriminatory behaviour that requires an order of compensation, an order to proceed to a hearing is made.

Following this, a hearing is held at the Court of Queen's Bench. The trial itself is conducted by the Commission's lawyer

Approximately one to two per cent of all complaints are expected to proceed to trial, according to SHRC.

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