The BC Human Rights Tribunal has dismissed a woman's complaint who was denied access to a Kelowna men's group event held at a Kelowna library back in 2019.
In a decision released earlier this month, tribunal member Devyn Cousineau ruled in favour of the Samurai Brotherhood, a men's organization with a number of “squads” across North America. The name of the group was changed to ARKA Brotherhood in 2022.
Renee Murakami filed the complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal after she was denied access to a September 2019 “open house” event held in Kelowna at the Okanagan Regional Library, organized by Brandon Archer. It's not clear in the decision which library location the event was held at.
According to the decision, the Samurai Brotherhood facilitates small men’s groups to “elevate the consciousness of men” and support its members through “ongoing intimate conversation groups.”
Prior to the event, Murakami inquired about whether she could attend the event. She said she's been asked to attend the open house by a person she was working with to build an app.
Nick Sol, a Samurai Brotherhood facilitator, told Murakami that the event was for men only and advised her about a different co-ed event in December.
Murakami said when she was denied entry to the event she felt “powerless” to fulfill her obligations and was humiliated. She called it a “segregation event.”
In addition to the Samurai Brotherhood, Archer and Nick Sol Consulting, Murakami also named the Okanagan Regional Library in her complaint.
But in response to Murakami's complaint, the men's group relied on Section 41 of the BC Human Rights Code, which allows exemptions for non-profit organizations that “has as a primary purpose the promotion of the interests and welfare of an identifiable group or class of persons.”
“Ms. Murakami’s complaint alleges that the Brotherhood and the individual respondents discriminated against her as a woman by holding an event exclusively for men. She alleges that the Library is also liable for this discrimination, because it made its space available for this purpose,” Cousineau said in her decision.
“In my view, all the Respondents are reasonably certain to prove that the open house event, and the Brotherhood’s preference for men, is permitted by section 41 of the Code.”
Cousineau quoted a 2005 BC Court of Appeal decision, in which an organization can “prefer a sub-group of those whose interests it was created to serve, given good faith and provided there is a rational connection between the preference and the entity’s work, or purpose.”
“To achieve its purposes, and cultivate the vulnerability and intimacy that is necessary for the work being done, [Samurai Brotherhood founder] Mr. [Phil] Mistleberger explains that it is essential to ensure the Brotherhood’s events and activities are restricted to men,” Cousineau says.
As a result, Cousineau dismissed Murakami's complaint.