(Mike Hager, Vancouver Sun)
A depressed man who was kicked out of a Surrey Shoppers Drug Mart for refusing to pull down his hood while getting a prescription deserves to have his human rights complaint heard, a B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled.
The judge reversed an August 2011 B.C. Human Rights Tribunal dismissal of Stephen Salvo’s case, which alleged that the company discriminated against him and refused him a public service based on his mental disability.
On Sept. 2, 2010, around 6 p.m., Salvo walked into the store wearing a hoodie to fill his prescription for depression medication. A store manager asked him to remove his hood. Due to shoplifting problems, store staff ask all customers wearing hoods that obscure their faces to remove them, the court documents said.
Salvo later told the tribunal that “wearing a hood is part of my mental sickness.”
Salvo refused to lower his hood or pick up his prescription until the manager gave him her last name. The manager refused and phoned 911. Soon after, a police officer arrived and Salvo was kicked out of the store.
The tribunal refused to hear Salvo’s case, ruling that it couldn’t establish a reasonable link between his hood and his depression, or that the manager treated him adversely because of his depression.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Stephen F. Kelleher ruled the tribunal seemed to ignore Salvo’s submissions that the hood was a “security blanket” that affects his mood and makes him feel more confident and secure.
“The tribunal undoubtedly is entitled to assess the evidence to determine whether there is sufficient material before it to proceed to a hearing,” Kelleher ruled. “But it is another matter to say that no findings of fact are to be made and then to make findings of fact.”
In an interview, Joti Samra, a registered psychologist and Simon Fraser University professor, said Salvo’s need to keep his hood on is not typical of depressed people, but it could help him with symptoms of paranoia and anxiety that some people with depression feel.
“Is this a typical manifestation? Absolutely not,” Samra said. “Could it be tenable that other things are contributing here? Yes for sure.
“And shame, embarrassment negative attribution are the things that come to mind.”
Kelleher directed the tribunal to reconsider its decision about the hearing and ruled that Salvo is entitled to costs against Shoppers.