Fondé en 1983 --Unis pour la diversité et l'égalité raciale


Montreal, Canada, May 28, 2008 ---- A gay couple in Pointe-Claire have won an important case before the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal, which awarded them a total of $15,000 in moral and punitive damages after being the victims of harassment, threats and vandalism by a group of youths in 2003.

Misters Roger Thibault and Theo Wouters, two elderly citizens who are known for being the first gay male couple in Quebec to formalize their union under Quebec's civil union law, lived through hate-motivated harassment and vandalism at their home for many years. Some of the acts in 2003 included:

❏ Late one night, a dark blue truck passed by their home and a passenger threw a flare at their home. This incident was captured by the couple's video surveillance system;

❏ On another evening, the same dark blue truck drove by the couple's home at night and one of the passengers threw toilet paper onto the couple's front lawn;

❏ On another occasion, the couple encountered the same dark blue truck on their way home, and two youths inside the vehicle hurled homophobic slurs at them. The couple decided to follow the truck in order to identify the two youths. The driver of the truck eventually got out of his vehicle, approached the couple's car and started hitting the car window, threatening to “break the window and your face.”

With no success in getting the police to lay criminal charges against the youths, the couple turned to CRARR for help. In response, CRARR filed a complaint at the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission on behalf of the couple in 2004,alleging that the hateful acts of the youths constituted a violation of the couple's right to equality, dignity and security, and that the four youths implicated in the complaint should compensate the couple for over $75,000 worth of damages.

In June 2007, the Commission only held one of the four youths responsible, who admitted to having committed the abovementioned acts because he disapproved of the couple's lifestyle. The Commission ordered the youth and his father to pay $5,000 in moral damages to Mr. Thibeault and $5,000 to Mr. Wouters.

On May 21st, 2008, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal finally rendered its decision on the matter, and found that the couple had been victims of homophobic harassment and that their civil rights had been violated. The Tribunal ordered that the youth and his father, who was held responsible for his son's actions, pay $10,000 in moral damages to the couple. In addition, the Tribunal ordered that the youth, who is today an adult, to pay $5,000 in punitive damages to the couple.

“Finally, justice has been served and we hope that there can be peace and respect for who we are - a gay couple that only wishes to live our quiet life in dignity,” says Mr.Thibeault.

“We encourage gays and lesbians who have been victims of homophobia to publicly denounce these hateful acts. One must never be afraid or ashamed of asserting one'srights,” says Mr. Wouters.

For Me Marie Noël Jacob, the lawyer who represented CRARR before the Tribunal, the decision marks an important development in parental responsibility in cases of discrimination or harassment committed by minors.

“This message should be taken very seriously by all parents and school authorities since it is often the case that youths may engage in discriminatory acts towards gays and lesbians without their parents knowing about them or the consequences of these acts,” says Me Jacob.

According to Mr. Fo Niemi, Executive Director of CRARR, the decision will have important repercussions for the Canadian and Quebec jurisprudence on hate incidents and homophobic violence since present case law is otherwise thin on these issues.

“The Tribunal clearly stated that “at the beginning of the twenty-first century, homophobic acts of repression, intimidation or harassment cannot be tolerated in our society.” This represents a clear and firm judicial disapproval of homophobia, which reaffirms that Quebec will not be tolerant of intolerance, especially intolerance that is violent, physical or psychological,” Mr. Niemi concludes.

Due to its expertise on hate crimes, CRARR intervenes in both hate crimes and hate incidents that are motivated by hate based on sexual orientation or other grounds of discrimination.