VICTORIA – A restaurant owner was ordered last week by the B.C. Human Rights Commission to pay an Oregon man $1,200 because he injured the man’s "dignity, feelings and self-respect."
And what, you may ask, did the errant restaurateur do to the poor guy? Why, he asked the man, his wife and three children to eat in the cafeteria rather than the dining room of his establishment.
It all began in 1994, when Rico Micallef, who grew up in the Vancouver area but now lives in Oregon, visited the Glacier Park Lodge at Rogers Pass with his family. The restaurant has a policy of encouraging families with young children to eat in the cafeteria, rather than the dining room, where the youngsters might disturb patrons.
When the Micallefs decided they didn’t like the cafeteria, they were seated in the dining room and served.
Most people would have left it at that. Not our intrepid Oregonian. No Sir. Even though he was seated and served in the dining room, he decided that his dignity, self-respect and feelings had been brutally trampled on by the initial attempt to feed him and his family in the cafeteria.
So what does a man do whose dignity has been so severely bruised? He complains to the Human Rights Commission, that’s what.
Micallef almost didn’t get anywhere with his beef, after a commission investigator recommended that the case be dropped. That was too much for Micallef’s poor self-esteem. He complained. The commission took a second look and decided to take on the case.
Four years and heaven knows how many taxpayers’ dollars later, the wheels of justice ground to a decisive halt. The restaurant owner was found guilty of having robbed Micallef of his dignity, feelings and self-esteem, and the latter got 1,200 bucks to nurture his self-respect back to health.
Robson, meanwhile, is understandably not a happy man. In fact, he’s decidedly mad at the government, which is understandable, considering he’s spent about $10,000 fighting the case.
"Things like this are what causes people like me not to want to do business in B.C., he said. "This government has gone nuts," No kidding, Gordon. What was your first clue?
Geoff Plant, the Liberal human-rights critic, said the decision was an insult to the common intelligence of most people.
"This is pathetic. It debases the coinage of human rights when these kinds of trivial cases are allowed to drag on for years and then are settled like this," he said.
I think Robson and Plant put it rather mildly. Over the years, we have pushed the human-rights envelope from the ridiculous to the sublime. The defenders of human rights may have had a small point when, years ago, a Vancouver perogy manufacturer was called on the carpet for naming his brand Honky Bill’s Perogies, even though the man was Ukrainian himself.
To pursue the cafeteria case in the first place was asinine. To drag it out for four years, forcing Robson to spend $10,000 to defend himself and then pay the pedant from Oregon another $1,200 is absolutely crazy.
I suggest the commission concern itself with real human rights abuses. There are enough out there to keep them busy without having to go after a restaurant owner who would rather have families with small kids eat in the cafeteria.
There are still landlords out there who refuse to rent to people because they don’t like their skin color. There are still bosses who sexually harass staff, even though enough offenders have been crucified in public.
In conclusion, I can only hope that Micallef, too, had to shell out 10 grand to collect his $1,200. Now, that would an element of justice in this ridiculous affair.