Early adjournment at human rights hearing involving former Ottawa police chief, senior officer
Insp. Samir Bhatnagar appears at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, November 2018.
It was a light day of testimony at a human rights case alleging matters as heavy as racism and discrimination within the ranks of the Ottawa Police Service.
The tribunal hearing adjourned before lunchtime with indications the two legal teams would be entering private mediation. It could hint at a possible settlement for a case accusing Ottawa’s former police chief of repeatedly denying Inspector Samir Bhatnagar promotions.
Bhatnagar’s hearing began in November 2018 and reconvened Wednesday morning.
However, there was no sign of the high-ranking trio many were expecting to make an appearance.
Several sources had told CTV News that former chief Charles Bordeleau, Director General Debra Frazer, and Interim Chief Steve Bell were supposed to testify.
Instead, the tribunal heard from Deputy Chief Uday Jaswal who appeared as the final witness called by Bhatnagar’s lawyer Paul Champ.
Jaswal testified that Bhatnagar was a “well-respected officer known for his skill and capability” and that he would never characterize Bhatnagar’s behaviour as insubordination; which was a word used to describe the complainant in earlier hearings.
Yet, he could not recall some of the scenarios which would strengthen Bhatnagar’s case.
For example, Champ asked him if he remembers calling Bhatnagar to let him know he had scored top marks on a matrix that would seemingly provide an opportunity for training and eventual promotion. Jaswal told the tribunal he did not. It was disclosed, though, someone other than Bhatnagar was given the opportunity.
According to Jaswal, there are many racialized officers who express missing out on opportunities due to race; saying they feel like “they don’t have the same opportunities as others.”
When it came to former chief Bordeleau, Jaswal, who is of Indian heritage, said “I don’t think he manages diversity of opinion well” while giving the impression he and Bordeleau often disagreed.
“I think the Chief found me challenging,” said Jaswal in response to how he felt Bordeleau responded to his comments in meetings.
The Ottawa Police Service’s labour lawyer Jock Climie tested the factor of race by challenging Jaswal during cross-examination. Jaswal eventually agreed it was fair to say Bordeleau had problems with anyone who disagreed with him and not just racialized members of the service.
Climie would also point out that, in spite of problems with Bordeleau, Jaswal was promoted and became the first racialized superintendent in the history of the Ottawa Police Service.
This was noted following Jaswal’s testimony saying he was “disappointed” by comments Bordeleau made to him immediately after his promotion to superintendent.
Jaswal says his white counterpart, receiving advancement at the same time, was dismissed while he was asked to stay behind. And that Bordeleau told him he had taken a considerable risk in greenlighting his promotion.
New professional charges against Bhatnagar
The chair of the tribunal paused hearings, more than once, to pull counsel for both sides into a different room to discuss another sensitive matter looming over the proceedings.
Sources say Interim Chief Steve Bell launched a misconduct investigation last week against Bhatnagar under the Ottawa police’s professional standards section. It may be related to allegations accusing Bhatnagar of lying under oath while before the human rights tribunal in this case.
While Bhatnagar and his lawyer Paul Champ have yet to confirm the misconduct investigation,Champ’s attempts to indirectly bring it up Wednesday were squashed.
Champ alleges Bhatnagar has been denied higher positions since filing his application to appear before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, including a more recent opportunity to assume the role of acting superintendent. Bhatnagar was notified Friday he would not be getting the position.
Climie argued it is a matter arising after Bordeleau’s retirement and should be considered outside of the original complaint filed by Bhatnagar last year.
Depending on the outcome of mediation, the hearing could continue Thursday.