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Human rights commission orders Manitoba to pay ex-youth centre worker $75K following harassment

The Manitoba Human Rights Commission found the province's justice ministry failed to provide a safe work environment for the former corrections worker. Manitoba Human Rights Commission

A former counsellor at Manitoba’s youth correctional institution who endured years of harassment because of his sexual orientation was awarded $75,000 from Manitoba Justice after a human rights commission judgment this week.

In a decision issued Thursday, the Manitoba Human Rights Commission found the province’s justice ministry failed to provide a safe work environment at the Manitoba Youth Centre for the former corrections worker.

Commission adjudicator Sherri Walsh ordered Manitoba’s government to pay its former employee $75,000 in compensation. The victim, whose name is subject to a publication ban, is only referred to as T.M. in Walsh’s decision.

The decision lays out years of abuse the complainant received.

T.M. revealed he was gay when a colleague asked, a year after he started working at MYC in 2002.

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Then the harassment started.

At first it was “mild jokes,” T.M. told Walsh, like when he lost his utility belt and handcuffs and a coworker said if they found “big pink fuzzy handcuffs” they would let him know.

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Then someone called him a “squaw” because he was both gay and Métis. He was called a “faggot.” He was called homophobic slurs at least four times a week, Walsh wrote in her report.

T.M. stopped working at the youth centre in 2010 after he went on medical leave for a month and his doctor suggested he be moved elsewhere in the justice ministry. After a panic attack in MYC’s parking lot in 2009, he had been placed on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications.

He was sent back to the youth centre in 2011. The harassment started again.

He was assaulted at an after-work get-together in December 2012, he testified to the human rights commission.

In 2013, he filed a formal complaint. He told the commission the assault was probably the catalyst.

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The trial, held in September 2019, lasted three weeks.

Walsh’s decision is the first time the Manitoba Human Rights Commission has addressed a harassment complaint based on sexual orientation.

The commission hadn’t made a ruling on whether an employer failed to address human rights violations when the employer itself wasn’t directly involved in the harassment prior to T.M.’s case.

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with an image that more accurately reflects the content of the article.

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