Discrimination complaints against the Victoria Theatre and a director will be heard by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. (Google Earth)

Discrimination complaints against the Victoria Theatre and a director will be heard by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. (Google Earth)

Racial discrimination complaint against B.C. theatre to proceed

Applications denied to dismiss racial discrimination complaints against theatre, director

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has determined a racial discrimination complaint against the Victoria Theatre will proceed.

Complainant Tenyjah Indra McKenna says she was denied a role in a Victoria production because she is black. In August 2017, McKenna emailed director Judy Treloar about auditioning for a role in a local production of Les Belles-Soeurs, a two-act play about four sisters living in Montreal in the 1960s.

READ ALSO: Estheticians can’t be forced to wax male genitals, B.C. tribunal rules

The play was being produced through the Victoria Theatre Guild and Dramatic School [Victoria Theatre or the Langham Court Theatre], a non-profit community theatre group that has presented more than 500 shows with approximately 4,000 actors since 1929.

Tribunal documents released in November say that when Treloar learned McKenna was black, she said that “a black woman could not be a sister or neighbour in the play.”

An excerpt from her email correspondence reads: “As much as I do not like saying this, the fifteen women in this play are Quebecois women and the play is set in Montreal in 1965. A black woman would not be a neighbour or a sister in this play, however, I would love to meet you and hear you read.”

Treloar says her comments were specific to the neighbourhood where the play takes place and denies discriminating against McKenna. She also claims she apologized and offered to meet with the actress.

In McKenna’s emailed response she suggested Treloar was adhering to the outdated tradition of casting only white women in these roles.

“I also wonder – if you are hesitant to cast a black actor to ensure historical accuracy, how many Quebecois or French‐speaking actors will you be casting?” she wrote.

READ ALSO: B.C. woman files human rights complaint alleging racial discrimination by former boss

The Victoria Theatre says it offered McKenna a “reasonable settlement” and made structural changes to address future complaints and “ensure their productions would be more diverse and inclusive.”

In meeting with the group’s general manager and production co-chair after the incident, McKenna asked that Treloar be removed as director.

Treloar was not removed and the play went ahead at the Langham Court Theatre from Nov. 15 to Dec. 2, 2017.

In September 2017, McKenna filed a complaint against both the theatre and Treloar.

In June 2018, the Victoria Theatre made a “with prejudice” settlement offer which included information on updated diversity and communication training and a $1,500 settlement offer to McKenna for injury to her “feelings and self-respect.”

To date, McKenna has not responded to the settlement offer.

Tribunal member Beverly Froese denied both the theatre and Treloar’s applications to have the complaints dismissed, calling the $1,500 settlement offer “not within the reasonable range” and submitting that even after the theatre became aware of and condemned Treloar’s comments, “no steps were taken to ensure that [her] casting decisions were made in an appropriate and non-discriminatory manner.”

Froese writes, “Treloar maintains her belief that having an all‐white cast in the play is historically accurate and appropriate because it is consistent with previous productions of the play across the country.”

READ ALSO: Air Canada forced girl, 12, to remove hijab: civil rights group

Froese also points to Treloar’s submission that she had offered her resignation but was convinced to stay on as director because the theatre “supported her artistic vision for its presentation.”

In her decision, Froese says “given the nature of the allegations and the often subtle and insidious nature of racial discrimination, a full evidentiary hearing is required to consider whether the remedial actions taken by the respondents adequately remedied the alleged discrimination.”



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, prepares a dose of the Moderna vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Almost two in three Canadians surveyed recently said they trust COVID-19 vaccines to be both safe and effective. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Northern Health to open 30 COVID vaccine clinics for oldest residents, Indigenous seniors

Health authority says it plans to vaccinate nearly 15,000 people in Phase Two

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

A health care worker prepares to test a Coastal GasLink field worker for COVID-19. (Coastal GasLink photo)
Coastal GasLink begins COVID screening of pipeline workers

Construction is once again ramping up following Northern Health approval of COVID management plan

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Most Read