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Human rights complaint lodged against fire chief, VOP

Village harassment policy updated as a matter of housekeeping



By Cindy Filipenko

A Village of Pemberton councillor has lodged a human rights complaint against the community’s fire chief and the municipality.

Councillor David MacKenizie has filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal alleging that he was passed over for a promotion because of his sexual orientation. The complaint further alleges that the complainant was subjected to homophobic jokes told by Fire Chief Russell Mack while fulfilling his duties as a volunteer firefighter.

The incident that spurred MacKenzie, a gay man, to file a complaint occurred in January.

“I just thought, enough is enough,” said MacKenzie.

The VOP was also named in the complaint, as both the accused and the complainant are employees of the village. As the employer, the VOP suggested that both men take a voluntary suspension with pay from the fire department until the issue could be resolved. Chief Mack accepted the suspension, while Councillor MacKenzie did not.

Both the VOP and the Chief Mack received copies of the complaint last week.

The Village of Pemberton administration is not commenting on the matter, but did confirm that a legal opinion had been sought. That legal opinion was tabled at an in camera meeting held on Wednesday, March 28. Mayor and council rose from that meeting without report. A second in camera meeting dealing with the matter was held prior to the Tuesday, April 3 regular council meeting. (Traditionally, legal, land and staff issues are dealt with in camera. The complaint meets that criteria as it raises both staff and legal issues.)

Chief Mack, who is currently out of country on vacation, could not be reached for comment.

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