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B.C. man, banned from swing dance club, fails to get human rights hearing

Man took issue with the Vancouver Swing Society banning people for inappropriate behaviour

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal won’t reconsider its refusal to hear a Vancouver man’s complaint that his dance club banned him for being “creepy,” and discriminated against him on the basis of age, sex and race.

Mokua Gichuru asked the tribunal to rethink a 2017 finding that the Vancouver Swing Society “has a right to ban individuals for inappropriate behaviour, regardless of sex, age or any other characteristic.”

Gichuru claimed new evidence from a club member’s March 2017 Facebook post supported his request for reconsideration because he said it revealed the swing club refuses to consider harassment complaints raised by men and won’t listen to “a man’s side of the story.”

The post, about unrelated sexual assault allegations made two years earlier against an international dance instructor who was black, said the choice to stand with the victim included banning the abuser, a reference Gichuru argued was aimed at him, an older, black man.

But tribunal member Walter Rilkoff disagreed that the Facebook post refers to Gichuru or that it supports an allegation that the dance club does not fairly handle complaints of harassment.

Gichuru initially complained that he was accused of “mansplaining,” or explaining something in a condesending way, and was unfriended on Facebook by a club member after posting an opinion about United States politics, but the exchange degenerated to complaints he had harassed a female club member.

After those details surfaced, Gichuru was banned from volunteering or attending swing society events for the rest of that year, leading to his first appeal to the tribunal and its refusal to consider his case further.

“From the information you provide, older men are allowed membership within (the Vancouver Swing Society) without restriction,” Rilkof says in his decision release Feb. 1, 2017.

“It appears your harassment complaint did not proceed and you were instructed not to attend events on Nov. 19 and Dec. 3, and perhaps indefinitely, due to what (the club) viewed as inappropriate behaviour,” Rilkoff says, adding the club has the right to make that ruling.

Following Gichuru’s second application, Rilkoff agreed to examine what the man said was new evidence from the 2017 Facebook post, but he again found it did not support an allegation of “blatant stereotyping” of older, black men interacting with younger women.

“The club wanted Mr. Gichuru to consider his role as an older man in his conduct toward (the victim,)” Rilkoff says.

“Mr. Gichuru believes that this stereotypes him as a ‘creep.’ However, the material he provides does not support this belief.”

The decision says Gichuru “has not alleged facts which, if proven, could be a violation of the code.”

Beth Leighton , The Canadian Press

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