On November 29, 2010, Bombardier Inc. was ordered by the Quebec Human Rights
Tribunal to pay over $300,000 in damages to a Muslim
pilot of Pakistani origin who, although a Canadian citizen, was
denied access to a training program offered at the company's
training center in Montréal. Of the total damages,
$50,000 was awarded as punitive damages, while the remainder was
for moral damages and lost income relating to missed employment
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States
introduced restrictions on training foreign pilots under an
American licence. In 2004, the pilot in this case was denied the
clearance required by American authorities to register for a pilot
training course under such a licence. The decision was made by the
United States Transportation Safety
Administration (TSA) in accordance with Title 49 of the Code of Federal
Regulations, Part 1552. Notably, the pilot had
received the required clearance in the past.
As a result of the TSA's decision, the pilot was denied
training under his American license. The pilot then requested
training from Bombardier under his Canadian license. This request
was denied as well, as the company representative who made the
decision testified that he considered the pilot a potential
terrorist. The company did not, however, verify its belief with
Canadian authorities responsible for national security, nor did it
pursue the matter with American authorities.
In 2008, the American authorities lifted the prohibition against
training the pilot under his American license and, as a result,
Bombardier agreed to train him. The company never learned of the
reasons for the prohibition, nor was it informed as to why the
prohibitions had been lifted.
Bombardier found guilty of discrimination
The Tribunal ultimately found that Bombardier had been guilty of
discrimination against the pilot. In making its decision, the
Tribunal accepted expert evidence presented by the Human Rights
Commission to the effect that the security measures adopted by
American authorities had a disproportionate impact on individuals
from Muslim countries such as Pakistan. As such, the Tribunal found
that this had been a case of discrimination based on national or
The Tribunal rejected the arguments Bombardier put forward to
justify its actions, namely that the company had wanted to protect
both Canada's national security and the company's American
training certificate, in effect its economic interests. The
Tribunal, however, criticized the company for not conducting its
own analysis of the potential risk to Canada's security and for
having instead relied entirely on the decision of American
authorities. The Tribunal asserted that no rational link existed
between the protection of Canada and the refusal to train the
The Tribunal also rejected Bombardier's argument that it was
obliged to abide by the decisions of American authorities in order
to avoid having its American training certificate revoked. Such an
argument assumes that American laws apply to the decision of the
company to train a pilot under a Canadian license, which the
Tribunal found not to be the case. The Tribunal noted, moreover,
that Bombardier had not consulted its lawyers on the matter.
As such, the Tribunal found Bombardier guilty of discrimination,
as the company's decisions had amounted to the application in
Canada of foreign security rules considered to be discriminatory
under Quebec law.
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