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Tribunal dismisses another mask human rights claim

Man who walked to and from clinic claimed he couldn’t walk 30 feet
Mask-black-background-creditSPmemoryGettyImages
Ian Christiansen refused to wear a mask while entering MedRay Imaging, resulting in the clinic refusing him entry

B.C.’s Human Rights Tribunal has dismissed another claim from a person claiming their rights were violated in a situation requiring them to wear a mask.

Tribunal chair Emily Ohler said in an Aug. 20 decision that Ian Christiansen had gone to MedRay Imaging, which operates in Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam, to get an x-ray of a broken foot.

The problem with the case, Ohler said, was that Christiansen claimed he could not walk 30 feet to a pharmacy yet walked both to and from the clinic.

The clinic had in place a policy mandating mask use in response to the COVID‐19 pandemic but Christiansen arrived at the clinic without one. 

An employee told Christiansen he would need a mask and that he could obtain one at the neighbouring pharmacy. 

Christiansen refused to wear a mask, resulting in MedRay refusing him entry, Ohler said.

And, the decision said, Christiansen claimed he could not go to the pharmacy because it would exacerbate the pain from his broken foot. 

As such, Christiansen filed his complaint against MedRay alleging discrimination in the provision of a service on the basis of physical disability contrary to B.C.’s Human Rights Code.

That disability was his broken foot, he said.

The company had initiated the mask policy to ensure the safety and comfort of staff and clients.

A senior staff member was called to handle the situation and later told the tribunal Christiansen didn’t say he was unable to wear a mask, nor that he was unable to walk any distance without pain.  Ohler noted Christiansen did not dispute that. 

However, Christiansen argued that any reasonable person would conclude there was something wrong with him by virtue of his being there for an x‐ray in the first place.

“Mr. Christiansen says that MedRay should have known that he had ‘something wrong with him’ that required accommodation because he was seeking an x‐ray, but his having walked up to the clinic and subsequently walked away with no apparent difficulty undermines his assertion that MedRay should have inferred he was unable to go to the pharmacy 30 feet away in order to obtain a mask,” Ohler said.

Ohler said MedRay would have needed to accommodate Christiansen if they had known a disability created a barrier to his wearing a mask.

“It is undisputed that he never informed MedRay that he needed accommodation,” Ohler said. “Rather, Mr. Christiansen says he informed MedRay of his view that his human rights were being violated.

The decision is similar to one released Aug. 20 where the tribunal said it wouldn't hear a complaint from a woman who alleged her human rights were violated when she was asked to don a mask at a New Westminster jeweller. She said she had a breathing disability but had not informed the business of that.

jhainsworth@glaciermedia.ca

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