‘Hostile and poisoned work environment’ alleged in human rights complaint against B.C. rodeo

A human rights complaint alleging discrimination has been filed against the Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition Association and the City of Surrey.

The complaint claims the rodeo and the city failed to respond to race-based, disability-based and sex-based harassment and discrimination, leading to a “hostile and poisoned work environment.”

The group complaint was made on behalf of workers and volunteers with long-term rodeo contractor and volunteer Laura Ballance acting as the main representative.

“The complaint alleges that the Cloverdale Rodeo and the city condoned and refused to address hostile and demeaning conduct by management and board members,” a notice about the complaint shared by Allevato Quail and Roy Law said.

“This disproportionately impacted women, racialized people, and people with disabilities. It also impacted those who were forced to witness this discriminatory conduct and work in the toxic environment it created.”

Last year, a similar complaint was filed against the rodeo. In response, the association issued a statement saying a human resources investigation was conducted months earlier and a general manager was removed from their position as a result.

“We want to ensure those employees and volunteers experience a respectful and inclusive environment in which each one of them is acknowledge for their contribution,” said Rich Kitos, rodeo chair and vice-president of the association, in a statement issued July 25.

Reporters have reached out to the rodeo and the city for comment on the latest complaint, but hasn’t received a response yet. The claims are untested, but the complaint was accepted for filing by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal in January. Now, the two parties have until April 4 to agree to resolve the complaint through mediation. If they agree to it, that mediation will take place on Oct. 4.

If the two parties don’t agree to mediation, however, both the city and the rodeo will need to file their responses to the claim by April 4. It may take one to two years for the complaint to be resolved. 

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