Human Rights Tribunal hearing begins for Ottawa cop alleging racial discrimination

Ottawa Police Const. Khoa Hoang, who claims he was denied promotions due to his ethnicity, is having his case heard by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.

An Ottawa Police officer who claims he was denied promotions due to his ethnicity is having his case heard by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.

Const. Khoa Hoang and his lawyers are saying he did not receive a promotion due to his race and that he also suffered anxiety and depression as a result of how he was treated by his superiors.

In his formal complaint, the Vietnamese-Canadian officer names former Police Chief Charles Bordeleau as well as several other members from the Ottawa Police Service. He claims that, in 2014, he had interviewed for a promotion to Sergeant and had been ranked 34 of 40, meaning he would have been in line for the promotion, but several officers intervened, resulting in what his lawyer called "extreme harassment tactics."

Lawyers for the Ottawa Police Service say the decision not to promote Hoang was not because of race but because of alleged findings of misconduct on some calls.

"The Applicant was discriminated against based on his race because the Ottawa Police Service did not follow its established formal disciplinary procedure in handling his alleged misconduct," Hoang's complaint claims. "The OPS justified not following its standard procedure due to concerns that the Applicant would allege discrimination based on his race had he been formally investigated."

Hoang's lawyer, Elie Labaky, tells CTV News Ottawa that despite a change in leadership at the Ottawa Police Service, there are still issues regarding discrimination.

"Make no mistake, the poison that flows through policing in Ontario is very much alive and well," he says. "My client is here to address the silence of all police officers."

During the hearing retired police chief Charles Bordeleau testified that racism does exist within the force. 

"Absolutely I've seen situations where it is presented and it is not tolerated," he said. 

But the lawyer for the Ottawa Police Service, Jock Climie, argued this is not a case of racism. 

"There is regrettably a complete misunderstanding on the part of the applicant with respect to what occurred here," Climie said. 

Formal complaint alleges string of "unregulated" discipline against Hoang

Hoang's formal complaint alleges that after he made the cut in the promotional pool, a colleague of his filed a complaint, which led to a superior attempting to "discredit and manipulate" the competition results in favour of another officer, who ranked significantly lower, at #78 in the competition.

After the initial complaint was found to be unsubstantiated, the claim says Hoang's supervisor launched a personal investigation of her own into Hoang's performance, "above and beyond" her normal duties. Hoang's complaint claims this led to "four entirely separate, unregulated, and ad hoc procedures to discipline [him] in efforts to avoid having him allege discrimination based on his race for his discipline and mistreatment."

Hoang claims he was ordered to take an officer safety course, make a public apology to his colleagues, and enter a performance improvement plan requiring he complete 500 hours with a coach officer. He did so out of fear of reprisal, the claim says.

"This practice served to further humiliate the Applicant before his coworkers and arouse doubt among fellow officers that the Applicant did indeed have performance issues," the complaint alleges.

Labaky said he hopes the Tribunal process brings justice to Hoang and other police officers in Ontario.

"Obviously, my client is not happy to be here. No one is happy to be here," he said, "but this is going to be a step forward for the Ottawa Police Service if they choose to deal with it in the appropriate fashion, which is to listen to my client, to address the issues correctly, and to go from there."

"No satisfying the bullies," Hoang says

Hoang says he has suffered "financially, socially emotionally, and mentally" because of his experiences.

"Since the promotional results were released in October 2014, I have tried to resolve sudden allegations of performance issues by: accepting responsibility, working with managers to find out what happened, speaking to my colleagues, trying to learn from my alleged mistakes, agreeing to take courses, and apologizing to my platoon despite not knowing what I did wrong, fearing reprisal if I did not comply," he wrote. "Even after my matter was said to have been resolved several times by top executives of the OPS (including the Chief himself), I was continuously harassed by managers and colleagues. There was no satisfying the bullies and predators that were determined to ruin my career."

He says he continues to try and make sense of what happened. 

Hoang is seeking monetary compensation of $145,000, a permanent removal of his 2014 and 2015 performance reviews and an immediate promotion to the rank of Sergeant.

With a report by CTV's Megan Shaw.

More to come…