An interesting case from Canada this week involves a Victoria, B.C. police officer who filed (and won) a human rights complaint against his employer for barring him from speaking out against the war on drugs on his own time.
The human rights tribunal that heard Constable David Bratzer’s complaint concluded that by restricting his off-duty activity as a drug policy reform advocate the Victoria Police Department was discriminating against him on the basis of his political belief. The 86-page decision was released on April 20, the same day plans for Canada-wide marijuana legalization were announced.
Constable Bratzer, who in his off-duty hours gives speeches and presentations on the dangers of continuing the drug war, is a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, or LEAP. An international, non-profit educational organization, LEAP is a consortium of current and retired police officers, judges, prosecutors and federal agents who are dedicated to putting an end to the 44 year-old, trillion-and-a-half dollar war on drugs.
“Police officers have valuable, on the ground experience when it comes to difficult issues that society grapples with and the tribunal recognized that,” Bratzer told the Globe and Mail in an interview. “There’s lots of officers who do question this issue, but I think a lot of those same officers looked at what I was going through and the experiences I had and the effects on my career and said to themselves, I don’t want that to happen to me.”
This case was about more than drug legalization or the police
As Constable Bratzer points out on his blog, this will be a precedent-setting case for employees across British Columbia, not just for police officers. Key elements of the decision include:
- Employers have a duty to accommodate the political beliefs of employees.
- The protection offered by the Code for political belief includes not only the belief itself but also the manner of expression.
- Employers cannot force their employees to ask for permission in advance of expressing their political beliefs.
- The right of police officers to participate in political advocacy and in the affairs of a political party.
- The Tribunal found the actions of Chief Jamie Graham (retired) were motivated by his antipathy toward “left wingers”.
- The Victoria Police Department has been ordered to pay $20,000 for injury to dignity, the highest ever award for a political belief case in Canada.
Below is a video of Constable Bratzer giving official testimony before the Canadian Senate on behalf of LEAP regarding the danger of continuing the war on drugs.
You can read the tribunal’s decision below or click here to download the PDF.