Human rights tribunal rebukes Vancouver Sheraton for discrimination

VANCOUVER The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal has ordered Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre to pay a C$5,000 fine for discriminating against an organization that sought to book a block of guestrooms.

The tribunal concluded that the hotel “injured the dignity, feelings and self-respect” of organizers of a “Bhangra Idols” competition by denying the group the 70 to 80 guestrooms it sought to reserve in 2008, despite admitting at the time that the inventory was available, The Globe and Mail of Toronto reports.

According to the complaint and affirmed by the tribunal, the hotel denied the group booking because the event included the word “bhangra”—a type of Indian music and dance.  A year prior, the hotel had suffered damages from an unaffiliated group that also used the word “bhangra” in its name, and management determined that the rejection occurred “simply because both organizations were involved with a music and dance form strongly associated with persons whose ancestry was Punjabi.”

Sheraton management testified that the reason the group booking was denied had nothing to do with bhangra. Rather, the event was to take place in too short of a time period to complete credit and reference checks and other documents required by large group bookings, hotel management claims.

But tribunal member Murray Geiger-Adams says the hotel’s version of events rings hollow: “I need not decide whether the complainants would have been able to satisfy the hotel with respect to those [documentation] matters; they were never given the opportunity to try.”