Pemberton taken back to human rights tribunal

By Jesse Ferreras, Pique Newsmagazine

July 29, 2010

A former Pemberton councillor and mayoral candidate is taking the Village back before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

David MacKenzie again alleges that the village and its fire chief, Russell Mack, discriminated against him in four separate instances because of his sexual orientation.

The first instance was his suspension from a volunteer firefighter position on Sept. 11, 2007; the second was an interview that Mack did with Pique that allegedly “maligned his character” in a story printed on Nov. 6, 2008; MacKenzie claims “differential treatment” when he sought to be reinstated as a volunteer firefighter on Dec. 6, 2008 and by Pemberton Fire Rescue on Dec. 19, 2008.

The complaint was filed on June 9, 2009, outside the three-month period in which MacKenzie was supposed to file complaints about the first three incidents, according to the B.C. Human Rights Code. However, in a March 25 decision this year the tribunal did accept complaints regarding the last three incidents.

Pique is not named as a respondent in the complaint. Tribunal Member Marlene Tyshynski states in accepting the complaints that MacKenzie alleges a “publication, based on an interview given by Mr. Mack, refers to his sexual orientation, maligns his character and is a breach by the respondents of s. 7, discrimination in publication.”

The Pique story from November 2008 consisted of an interview with Russell Mack, telling his side of a human rights complaint filed by MacKenzie that had been received by the tribunal on Jan. 23, 2007.

At the time of that complaint MacKenzie was on council. Previously he had served as a volunteer member of Pemberton Fire Rescue. He alleged that Mack and the Village of Pemberton had discriminated against him, including jokes made at the fire hall containing the words “cocksucker” or “faggot.”

He went on to complain that he was asked not to participate in assisting a training officer as part of rookie training as he had done in two previous rookie classes. He also said that over the Christmas holidays he was passed over for a promotion to an Acting Captain position with the fire department.

The village settled that complaint with MacKenzie, giving him $5,000 and spending $12,480.44 on its own legal fees.

Mack said in the Pique story that MacKenzie was never in line for a promotion and it had nothing to do with his sexuality. He admitted saying that he “wouldn’t want that kind of guy” in a certain position but said it was because of his job performance, not his sexual orientation.

In 2004 Mack took MacKenzie on as a firefighter without interviewing him. The relationship went sour when the councillor took an engine out to a July 2006 fire that he wasn’t supposed to. Mack told him to take the truck back and MacKenzie complained to Mayor Jordan Sturdy.

MacKenzie was out of town and did not return a request for comment. Mack, reached Friday, directed all inquiries to Village of Pemberton Administrator Daniel Sailland. Sailland did not return a request for comment.


About jesseferreras

Sea to Sky-based journalist. Snowboarder, cyclist, cinephile, bon vivant.
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