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A Vancouver man’s enthusiasm for bondage and his pagan beliefs were not the reason he was denied a permit to drive a limousine, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has ruled. Peter Hayes had alleged that the Vancouver Police Board and specifically Const. Kevin Barker denied him a chauffeur’s permit because of his religion and sexual orientation. But tribunal member Heather MacNaughton wrote in a decision dismissing Hayes’s complaint Tuesday that police legitimately believed Hayes “posed a risk of acting violently, coercively or inappropriately towards customers as a limousine driver.”

According to tribunal documents, Hayes says that he is a practicing Pagan and that his sexual orientation is BDSM. Hayes describes himself as a “lifestyler” who wants BDSM to permeate all aspects of his life. He is also bisexual and enjoys the company of multiple sexual partners. He applied for a chauffeur’s permit with the Vancouver Police Department’s taxi unit in May 2005, and was interviewed by Barker, who was tasked with vetting his application.

Hayes arrived at the interview dressed all in black: black trench coat, black shirt, black dress pants, black tie and shiny black military boots. When Barker asked what the occasion was for all the black, Hayes testified that he said he always wore black, like many Pagans.

During the interview, Barker told Hayes that he would not be granted a permit. Hayes testified before the tribunal that the officer called him a “sex cult leader” during the interview, and was refusing the permit because of that. He also said that Barker was “completely unprofessional, snarky and demeaning,” “intentionally aggressive” and “rude and insulting.” In a letter to the VPD, Hayes wrote that Barker told him he posed “an extreme risk of recruiting passengers/customers into my cult during work hours.” But Barker told the tribunal that he denied the permit after a background check revealed a series of troubling allegations against Hayes spanning 10 years.

In the mid-1990s, Hayes was charged with the sexual assault of a child, although he was eventually acquitted. A decade later, in 2003, neighbours called the police to say that Hayes had danced naked in his bedroom in view of small children, but no charges were laid. That same year, Hayes’s live-in girlfriend reported to police that he had pushed and scratched her, but she did not want to pursue charges. Barker testified that even though Hayes had not been convicted of a crime, he was worried that he could “be alone in the limo with the doors locked, gosh knows where, with kids or a female relying on him to get her home.”

The tribunal ruled that Barker’s testimony was credible, and that he was unaware of Hayes’s religion or BDSM practices before the interview. Vancouver police denied Hayes his permit, “because they believed, perhaps wrongly, that he was ‘unfit to act as a chauffeur,’ because he presented an unacceptable risk of inflicting violence, practicing coercion or behaving inappropriately with those with whom he would necessarily come in contact in the course of his work,” MacNaughton wrote.

In 2006, Barker and the VPD applied to the B.C. Supreme Court for a legal declaration that sexual orientation under the Human Rights Code does not include BDSM. The court ruled that the petition was premature, because the tribunal had not yet made a decision in Hayes’s complaint.

But the tribunal’s decision this week did not include a ruling on whether BDSM can be considered a sexual orientation under the Human Rights Code. MacNaughton wrote that if the tribunal found Hayes had been discriminated against, it would have to consider whether BDSM is a protected sexual orientation.

“As a result of our conclusion that Mr. Hayes’ religion and/or sexual orientation were not factors in Const. Barker’s decision-making, it is not necessary for us to address the issues of whether BDSM is a sexual orientation that is protected by the code or, if it is, whether Mr. Hayes is a member of that protected group,” she wrote.


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