Tristin Hopper, National Post, May 1, 2014
For refusing to serve a man carrying what it deemed to be improper I.D.–and then calling the police when he refused to leave–a Halifax bar is now awaiting punishment for what the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission deemed to be a discriminatory act of “imposing the police” on a customer “because of his colour.”
The bar, the Halifax Alehouse, maintains that it had no racial malice in kicking out Sierra Leone immigrant Dino Gilpin; they were simply fulfilling the strict requirements of Nova Scotia’s Alcohol and Gaming Division.
“Our motto is ‘if in doubt, keep them out,’” Alehouse general manager Peter Martell said in a letter filed before the commission. “We are heavily scrutinized by the [Alcohol and Gaming Division] and follow their guidelines.”
The incident occurred on a Saturday night in February, 2010. Mr. Gilpin, then 32, entered the Alehouse, ordered a beer and was immediately “carded” by server Stephanie Lent.
Mr. Gilpin provided an expired Nova Scotia identification card, an expired driver’s licence, a pictureless Nova Scotia health card and a Canadian citizenship card, which included a picture.
As none of the cards met the bar’s policies of only accepting valid driver’s licences, provincial I.D. cards and passports, Ms. Lent refused service and asked Mr. Gilpin to leave.
Mr. Gilpin continued to linger, despite the intervention of manager Shawn Murgatroyd. Eventually, Mr. Murgatroyd called Halifax Police to remove him from the premises.
Despite unanimous testimony by Alehouse staff that Mr. Gilpin did not seem intoxicated, police charged him with public drunkenness and detained him for a night in police custody.
The charge was subsequently dismissed, and Mr. Gilpin is intending to pursue a separate case against the police.
In its final decision rendered in July, the Human Right Commission ultimately ruled that Halifax Alehouse’s denial of Mr. Gilpin’s identification was not necessarily racist, even if it chastised the bar’s current age identification policy for being “aggressive and even arrogant.”
What was racist, though, was the bar’s act of “invoking the force of the state” by summoning police.
Halifax Alehouse was unable to “rebut the presumption of discriminatory behaviour,” read the decision.
“As Maya Angelou has said: … ‘people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,’” wrote commission board chair Walter Thompson.
“Mr. Gilpin wept as he told his story. He will never forget how the Alehouse made him feel.”
At proceedings, Mr. Gilpin’s lawyer also claimed the episode had triggered his client’s post-traumatic stress disorder.
At a final hearing convened on Tuesday, the parties met to hash out an appropriate “remedy” to the July decision. To be decided by the board chair within the next few weeks, the remedy is expected to have lasting effects not only on the Alehouse but the whole Nova Scotia liquor trade.
“What I think you’re going to see from the board chair is some commentary with respect to the benefit of having training relating to consumer racial profiling and stuff of that nature,” said Kendrick Douglas, lawyer for Mr. Gilpin.
His client’s experience is “not the first of its kind in Nova Scotia, that’s for sure,” he said.
Gordon Stewart, executive director of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia, said he anticipates the pending remedy will prompt Nova Scotia restaurants to work out clearer carding guidelines with the Alcohol and Gaming Division–particularly since the Halifax bar scene is already swimming with fake I.D.s.
“It can get restaurants … charged and shut down and fined,” he said.
Alehouse lawyer Eric Thomson, meanwhile, told Halifax’s Chronicle Herald that the case’s outcome still leaves plenty of ambiguity on how bars will be expected to treat their customers.
“The question still remains–when do you make a phone call, when don’t you make a phone call?” he said.