Exclusive club in Toronto fined $35K for telling man with autism he required supervision at all times
The family of a prominent Toronto artist with autism is speaking out after one of the city’s oldest private clubs demanded he be supervised at all times while using the facilities – a decision that prompted the artist to file a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
The Granite Club, a private athletics club located in North York, told 20-year-old Niam Jain he would require supervision while using the facility after a 2020 incident between Jain and another club member in one of the facility's locker rooms. Jain says the club’s investigation of the incident and subsequent findings needlessly robbed him of his dignity.
Jain and his mother, Nina, filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. A recent decision handed down by the tribunal sides with the Jain family, stating the club failed to accommodate the artist’s disability – largely because its staff misunderstood a common autistic behaviour.
“We felt this was undermining all of his achievements, his hard work, and his efforts to be independent,” Nina said.
Jain had been attending the club for two years before the aforementioned incident.
On Feb. 10, 2020, club member Andrew Gage testified he found Jain touching his bag in the locker room. Gage said he asked him to stop and accused Jain of crude behaviour.
The adjudicator found the bag was in the place where Jain usually placed his bag as part of his routine while changing clothes, and Jain was mistaken in acting as if it was his bag.
But Jain could not speak to explain himself to Gage and became anxious “when confronted by Gage’s angry questioning,” the adjudicator said. That is when the young man started making a sound “like he was going to spit” and went to shower.
The adjudicator found that was a common autistic behaviour and Gage’s suggestion that anything was crude was “disproportionate to the applicant’s behaviours,” the adjudicator said.
Another member testified he heard Gage loudly question Jain for about a minute and worried that there would be “some kind of altercation.”
According to the judgment, Gage told a manager that “he and other members pay way too much money to have this kind of thing happen in the locker room” and said if it continued he would go to the police.
The club investigated, hearing from the members, staff, and the Jain family. The Jains proposed other accommodations, like signage and a bench that Jain could go to as part of his routine that wouldn’t accidentally impact other club members.
The club decided it would minimize the risk of anything similar happening by requiring Jain to be under supervision at all times while patroning the club.
The Jain family says this was a discriminatory response, and subsequently launched a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal.
The family had initially been granted anonymity in the proceeding, but chose to do an interview in the hopes that publicizing the case would remind organizations of their obligations to accommodate disabilities and make a difference for people with autism.
In the judgment, the adjudicator found the club prioritized appeasing “one angry member” who said he and other members “pay way too much money to have this kind of thing happen in the locker room,” the decision says.
The club should revoke the requirement for Jain to have a caregiver, put in other accommodations for Jain such as signage and a new locker room bench, improve its human rights training and pay the maximum damages of $35,000, the adjudicator found.
The Granite Club told CTV News in a statement it is “firmly committed to providing an inclusive space to all members of our community and intends to fully comply with the steps outlined in the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario’s decision.”
“We are currently finalizing plans to address the concerns raised throughout this process so that the club’s differently abled community always feels welcome,” Mary Elizabeth Sullivan, the club’s chief executive officer, told CTV News Toronto.
Requiring someone with a disability to do more is an inversion of the responsibility of a venue according to Ontario’s Human Rights Code, said one of Jain’s lawyers, Jenna Bontorin.
“Imposing this requirement was really a rush to judgment and was based on discriminatory conclusions, and stripped him of his autonomy,” Bontorin said.
Accommodating someone with a disability must amount to more than managing risk, adjudicator Romona Gananathan said, saying that education about autism should have been part of the club’s response.
Jain expresses himself through “stims,” which are repetitive soothing behaviours that can be misinterpreted by others, she said. They can include sounds like clearing his throat and repetitive actions like rocking, hand-flapping, flicking fingers and making noises.
“What was misinterpreted as sexualized behaviour in the men’s locker room was, in my view, nothing more than the applicant stimming in response to Gage’s verbally threatening behaviour,” she wrote.
“The caregiver requirement is not an accommodation sought or requested by the applicant but one that was imposed by the respondent based on its own need to appease an angry member,” Gananathan wrote.
The ruling should be a clear lesson to other organizations to listen carefully and investigate fully when presented with someone who needs accommodation, said another of Jain’s lawyers, Brian Greenspan.
“The problem was perpetuating the myth that we know best, we know how to organize your life better than you know how to organize your life,” said Greenspan.
The decision is an inspiration because of the courage it took for this family to stand up to the powerful and underscore the importance of accommodating all kinds of differences, Marg Spoelstra of Autism Ontario, said.
“Autistic folks sometimes present in ways that are puzzling to people. But it’s the nature of autism for certain individuals. We have to get to know what it means to be human, the full extent of it,” she said.
“There’s no reason to exclude someone because they may be behaving awkwardly. That’s a powerful message,” she said.
The Granite Club is a private family, athletic and social club founded in 1875 with about 11,000 members, located near Toronto’s Bridle Path neighbourhood.
The Jain family joined the club in 2008 when Niam Jain was about 6 years old.
Toronto Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Canada makes amendments to foreign homebuyers ban – here's what they look like
Months after Canada's ban on foreign homebuyers took effect on Jan. 1, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has made several amendments to the legislation allowing non-Canadians to purchase residential properties in certain circumstances.
'Leave this with me': Alberta premier heard on call with COVID-19 protester
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, in a leaked cellphone call, commiserated with a COVID-19 protester about his trial while divulging to him there was an internal dispute over how Crown prosecutors were handling COVID-19 cases.
What is the grocery rebate in federal budget 2023? Key questions, answered
To help offset rising living expenses, the Government of Canada has introduced a one-time grocery rebate for low- and modest-income Canadians. Here is what we know about the rebate.
RCMP arrest 5 while executing search warrant at Wet'suwet'en protest camp
RCMP officers executed a search warrant at a protest camp on Wet'suwet'en traditional territory near the under-construction Coastal GasLink pipeline Wednesday.
'Compostable' food packaging may contain hazardous 'forever chemicals': Canadian study
As Canada phases out single-use plastics, more restaurants are opting to use 'compostable' takeout containers. But a new study suggests some of these supposedly eco-friendly containers may pose hazards to our health and the environment.
Could Usain Bolt outrun a 900-pound dinosaur? Physics professor poses the question
A new academic paper pits legendary sprinter Usain Bolt against a 900-pound dinosaur to see who could run a 100-metre distance the fastest.
Recalled in Canada: Change tables over entrapment hazard, hoodies due to risk of choking
Health Canada has issued two recalls, one for change tables over an entrapment hazard and another for bamboo nursing hoodies due to a risk of choking.
Many Canadians like to tell 'white lies' about home-cooked meals: survey
Have you ever had to lie about the quality of a home-cooked meal to protect someone's feelings? According to a new survey by Research Co. you’re not the only one.
Spending to increase economic capacity is fiscally responsible, Freeland says in post-budget defence
Defending her latest federal budget, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said spending that increases economic capacity is fiscally responsible.
Bill 15: Quebec tables legislation to overhaul health system
The CAQ government has unveiled its long-promised plan to improve Quebec's public health network. Tabled at the Quebec legislature Wednesday by Health Minister Christian Dubé, Bill 15 promises a major shakeup.
'I lost a brother': Funeral held for teen who died in Old Montreal fire
Almost two weeks after his death, a funeral was held in Laval Wednesday for a teenager who died in the fire in Old Montreal.
Flooded and fed up: St-Leonard homeowners file class-action suit over heavy rain damages
A group of homeowners in St-Leonard has filed a class-action lawsuit against their borough and the City of Montreal, claiming municipal authorities are to blame for repeated floodings during heavy rain.
Coyote encounter unnerves woman
An evening walk along the trails of Westminster Ponds in southeast London, Ont. turned into a frantic scene for Denise Singh and her two dogs.
Over a dozen dogs 'dumped' across Huron and Perth Counties
More than a dozen dogs were abandoned across Huron and Perth Counties on March 23 and 24, and local dog lovers are furious about it.
2,700 cattle escape $2-million barn fire
Damage is estimated at $2-million after a barn and grass fire in southeast London on Tuesday.
'Fairly emotional for everybody': Teen struck by LRT visits emergency crews who rescued him
Several weeks after a teen was stuck under an LRT train in Kitchener, he’s now up and walking and visited the emergency crews who helped rescue him.
Cambridge municipal election candidate suing city after names left off ballot
A retired political science professor says he was “stunned” by the way the Cambridge municipal election unfolded.
Businesses weigh in on government’s plan to reduce credit card fees
The federal government is touting plans to help small businesses by reducing credit card fees, but some local merchants say while they welcome the measure, the actual impact it will have on their operations will be minimal.
Northern Ont. family ‘ecstatic’ as 25-year-old murder mystery finally solved
Robert Steven Wright was convicted Wednesday of murdering Renee Sweeney, a little more than 25 years after her brutal killing shocked the community.
B.C. man pleads guilty to northern Ont. shooting, Crown drops attempted murder charge
A man who admitted to shooting up a home in Greater Sudbury in 2020 over a drug theft pled guilty Wednesday to reduced charges.
Driver caught travelling 200km/hr on major Ontario highway
A 20-year-old has been charged with careless driving after travelling double the speed limit on a major Ontario highway.
LRT | Stage 2 of Ottawa LRT faces further delay
The long-awaited southern extension to Ottawa's light rail network is facing a further delay, a city committee heard Wednesday.
Truck held together with bungee cord pulled off the road in eastern Ontario
Quinte OPP says officers stopped the vehicle on Trenton-Frankford Road on Wednesday with a bungee rope stretching across the back of the truck.
Migrants' influx helps Cornwall, Ont. labour shortage
Hundreds of migrants, who have crossed the Canadian border at Roxham Road in Quebec and have settled in Cornwall, were on the hunt for jobs on Wednesday.
Chatham pipe band to drum up support with 'Tartan Day' celebration
Chatham’s Branch 642 Royal Canadian Legion Pipe Band is hosting the first ever ‘Tartan Day’ in southwestern Ontario, as the 77-year-old band looks to recruit new members.
Windsor West MPP presses Conservatives over anti-scab legislation
Anti-scab legislation was tabled Wednesday in Queen’s Park by Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky and other members of the NDP which would ban the use of replacement workers during a strike or lockout.
Best of Windsor Essex Awards winners announced
The results are in — residents had their say voting on their favourite local hot spots for this year’s Best of Windsor Essex Awards.
Busby Centre braces for higher demand with Salvation Army's meal program ending
The Salvation Army's Barrie Bayside Mission is ending its community meal program as of April 1.
'I have so much rage inside of me,' Veterans angry over war monument vandalism
For the second time in less than a month, vandals targeted a war monument in our area.
Bail hearing for man charged in Elnaz Hajtamiri's alleged assault, kidnapping attempt
Two men facing charges in the alleged assault and failed kidnapping attempt of Ontario woman Elnaz Hajtamiri appeared in court Wednesday, with one seeking to be released from custody just days after his co-accused was granted bail.
N.S. mass shooting inquiry report must deliver 'clear commentary': family lawyer
A lawyer who represents Nova Scotia mass shooting victims' families said in an interview they are hoping "for clear commentary on what things went wrong and what things ought to have been done better or differently."
Cold front to sweep mix of snow, rain across the Maritimes Thursday
A low-pressure system moving north of the St. Lawrence River valley will sweep a cold front across the Maritimes on Thursday.
How Portapique residents past and present are dealing with reminders of the 2020 mass shooting
The eve of the release of the final report from the inquiry into Nova Scotia’s 2020 mass shooting is a reminder for residents of Portapique of their small community’s traumatic past.
‘I started breaking down:’ Friends remember 15-year-old homicide victim
A 15-year-old girl shot to death in the community of Martindale early Tuesday morning, has now been identified by friends and police as Sarah Alexis Jorquera.
Woman in custody, charges pending following Lions Park LRT station stabbing
Calgary police say they've arrested a woman in connection with a stabbing at the Lions Park LRT station that stemmed from a fight between several people.
Lethbridge UCP candidate Torry Tanner's claims against teachers disputed
A United Conservative Party candidate in Lethbridge claims teachers are exposing students to pornography and gender reassignment without parental knowledge.
Manitobans should prepare for a gas price hike according to an expert
Come the weekend, Manitobans will be paying more for gas and the price could climb even higher in the coming weeks and months according to a gas expert.
Brandon pauses public engagement on 30-year vision over 'inappropriate and unsafe behaviour'
The City of Brandon has paused its public consultation on its 30-year plan for the city due to 'inappropriate and unsafe behaviour' from some residents.
Manitoba family launches lawsuit over COVID-19 vaccination
A Manitoba family has launched a lawsuit alleging their 23-year-old son had a stroke days after receiving a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, leaving him legally blind.
'I made it': Inside the addiction and mental health treatment ongoing at old Riverview Hospital site
The Riverview Hospital itself has been closed for more than a decade, but 289 people are currently receiving treatment for mental health, addictions or both at the old site.
City of Vancouver considering requiring grant recipients to be 'respectful' in order to get funding
Vancouver city council has asked staff to shape a policy that would require grant recipients to engage with officials in a "respectful manner," a move that one political scientist says suggests an attempt to prevent or punish criticism.
'A freeze response of shock': Expert weighs in on bystanders not stepping in during fatal Vancouver stabbing
After a man was fatally stabbed outside of a Vancouver Starbucks in front of dozens of witnesses, video of the attack is circulating on social media, raising questions about why nobody stepped in to help.
Online video between Danielle Smith and Artur Pawlowski raises questions over interference
In an online video, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is heard speaking with outspoken Calgary pastor Artur Pawlowski, creating questions about her influence on Alberta court cases.
Man found dead in SUV, Edmonton homicide detectives on the case
Police are looking for help in the suspicious death of a man found in a vehicle in north Edmonton Wednesday morning.
'Serious labour shortage' holding Alberta's tourism sector back: industry advocates
Alberta's tourism sector has a "serious labour shortage" that can threaten its long-term viability, a new labour study has found.