The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal has sided with a Victoria police officer and his claims that the Victoria Police Department, his employer, interfered with his right to express his political beliefs as guaranteed under the BC Human Rights Code. The Canadian Press reported that the officer was awarded $20,000 on five of his eight claims for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect.
The constable who brought the claim stated publicly that after this judgment, police officers have “more freedom to engage in debates about public policy issues than they ever have before in this province.” In this case, the officer alleged that his employer restrained his off-duty public advocacy activities with a nonprofit organization that advocates for the legalization and regulation of illicit drugs, coupled with support for addiction treatment.
The officer commented further to the Canadian Press that his views have not interfered with his duty to enforce the current drug laws in his professional capacity.
The Tribunal found that the employer had illegally discriminated against the officer and interfered with a significant human right of citizens in, among other things, trying to keep him from attending a conference, making a speech and commenting to the media about the drug-legalization issues.
The April 2016 opinion also stated that allegations of BC Human Rights Code violations are viewed by the tribunal in light of freedoms protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The police department has stated that it does not intend to appeal the decision.