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Backpack search not sexual discrimination: B.C. Human Rights Tribunal

Shopping carts are shown at Costco in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has told a man he wasn’t the victim of sexual discrimination at the hands of Costco.

Ryan Morris filed a complaint, saying Costco discriminated against him on the basis of his sex by checking his backpack when he left the store.

He told the Tribunal it happened twice in the summer of 2017.

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Tribunal documents show Morris said he was very embarrassed to have his bag checked, while women with purses walked by without the same thing happening to them.

“I should not have been singled out by Costco’s staff on the basis they have the right to inspect my bag. The fact that no women were subject to the same inspection condition of membership, clearly shows an imbalance in enforcement,” reads a submission to the Tribunal from Morris.

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“The discretion to enforce this policy only to myself and not females would show sexual bias.”

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The tribunal, however, ruled there was no evidence Morris was “singled out” because he is a man, but rather because he was carrying a backpack.

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Costco said its customer policy includes a line saying the store reserves the right to inspect customer’s bags when they leave, and they may check large purses, if they feel the need to. But often, large purses would be open, or employees could easily tell no merchandise had been stolen.

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“Costco says it has no interest in inspecting its members’ personal or private belongings and that if its members are concerned about having their bags searched, it suggests they leave their bags in their vehicles or at home or that they put personal items into a smaller bag that would not be able to conceal merchandise,” tribunal documents read.

The tribunal decision said there wasn’t evidence that Morris’ sex has an adverse impact on him, adding, “to some degree, Mr. Morris’ complaint relies on the assumption that men carry backpacks while women carry purses.”

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