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