Bombardier didn't racially discriminate against pilot, Supreme Court rules

The Supreme Court of Canada rules unanimously that Bombardier Inc. didn't discriminate against a pilot on the basis of his race, in a decision expected to have ramifications for hundreds of other cases of alleged racial and other forms of discrimination.

Canadian pilot denied training on new aircraft by Montreal-based Bombardier in 2004

Canada's top court ruled Thursday that Bombardier Inc. did not discriminate against a pilot on the basis of his race. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Bombardier Inc. didn't discriminate against a Canadian pilot on the basis of his race when it refused to train him on new aircraft in 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.

In its unanimous decision, the court found the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal did not establish there was a connection between the race of Javed Latif and Bombardier's decision to deny him training.

"In this case, it has not been shown on a balance of probabilities that there is a connection between a prohibited ground of discrimination and the company's decision to deny the individual's training request," wrote Justices Richard Wagner and Suzanne Cote. "The company's liability has therefore not been proven under s.10 of the Charter."

A Canadian of Pakistani origin, Latif was licensed to fly in both Canada and the United States, but needed to retrain in order to fly new aircraft.

In 2004, Bombardier's pilot training centre in Dallas refused to retrain him, saying U.S. authorities had identified him as a "threat to aviation or national security."

Latif said the U.S. authorities had made a mistake. He reapplied to be trained under his Canadian licence by Bombardier in Quebec, but the company refused, again citing U.S. national security concerns.

In 2008, Latif was taken off the threat list by U.S. authorities, without explanation. After his case was re-examined, he was later able to train with Bombardier.

The court also found that there was no evidence that the U.S. Department of Justice banned Latif from training because of his race.

"The parties do not know why DOJ refused to issue a security clearance for Mr. Latif in 2004," they wrote. "Indeed, the (Quebec Human Rights) Tribunal wrote, 'We do not know the process, criteria or objective reasons that resulted in the refusal by the U.S. authorities to give Mr. Latif security clearance …'."

'Branded a terrorist'

Catherine McKenzie, Latif's lawyer, indicated the impact on her client of Bombardier's decision not to train him.

"He said in testimony that he felt he was branded as a terrorist erroneously," she told CBC News before the top court decision was handed down. "He wasn't able to work as a pilot for four years."

Latif took the case to Quebec's Human Rights Tribunal. Bombardier argued before the tribunal that there "would have been serious consequences" for Bombardier with the U.S. authorities if they had agreed to train him in Canada.

The tribunal nevertheless found in Latif's favour, saying he had been discriminated against based on national and ethnic origin. It awarded him an unprecedented $320,000 in damages.

That decision was overturned by the Quebec Court of Appeal. Thursday's ruling upholds that decision.



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