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Human rights complaint dismissed after B.C. customer allegedly told to 㽶Ƶֱspeak English㽶Ƶֱ

Incident involved dispute between customer and manager at a Canadian Tire store in 2020
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A human rights complaint against a Canadian Tire store on Vancouver Island and one of its managers has been dismissed. (Black Press Media file photo)

A human rights complaint has been thrown out after a customer at a Canadian Tire store on Vancouver Island was allegedly told to 㽶Ƶֱspeak English㽶Ƶֱ during a dispute with a manager.

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, in a decision issued May 7, dismissed a complaint against the store and its staff member stemming from an incident in 2020. The store location was not specified.

A customer came in with a flat tire which was repaired that same day, but the customer was then advised that no employee was available to install the repaired tire until the next day. The parties argued about the customer㽶Ƶֱs expectations. The customer, of South American origin, contended that he spoke to his grandchild in Spanish and the manager shouted something to the effect of 㽶Ƶֱspeak English,㽶Ƶֱ to which the customer responded with 㽶Ƶֱa series of Spanish expletives.㽶Ƶֱ The customer, in his rights complaint, said being spoken to in that way in front of his grandchild 㽶Ƶֱmade him feel very bad, unwelcome, rejected and insulted.㽶Ƶֱ

The respondent argued that it was the complainant who verbally abused the manager, denied that the 㽶Ƶֱspeak English㽶Ƶֱ comment was made, and denied that the customer was accompanied by his grandson during the incident. The tribunal was also advised that the store㽶Ƶֱs general manager apologized to the complainant via e-mail two months later.

The tribunal acknowledged that the comment, if it was made, was directed against a member of a group historically discriminated against and was 㽶Ƶֱdeeply upsetting,㽶Ƶֱ but was an isolated comment made in the context of an escalating argument.

㽶ƵֱEven if [the manager] told [the customer] to 㽶Ƶֱspeak English,㽶Ƶֱ it is unlikely that this one comment would rise to the level of discrimination requiring state intervention,㽶Ƶֱ the tribunal noted. 㽶ƵֱThis decision should not be taken to condone the use of inappropriate or offensive utterances. However, it is not the purpose of the [human rights] code or the tribunal to sanction all incivility which occurs in society.㽶Ƶֱ

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