A complaint will be heard by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal about the alleged harassment of a Filipino mother in a Burnaby church.
The tribunal, in a recent decision, rejected the request of the Willingdon Church to dismiss the complaint filed by Raquel Cunanan.
A single mom, Cunanan had alleged that she was harassed by the church’s custodian Cesar Beltran.
Like Cunanan, Beltran is also a Filipino.
According to Cunanan, Beltran acted inappropriately toward her and her son on a number of occasions.
Beltran denied the allegations, and he was supported by the Willingdon Church.
Cunanan resigned from being a volunteer at the church because she believed that the church did not respond properly to her concerns about the alleged harassment.
Cunanan filed a complaint before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, claiming she was the subject of discrimination because of her sex, race, and family status.
“Ms. Cunanan’s allegations must be tested at a hearing, where an expert Tribunal Member can hear and weigh all of the evidence to determine whether Mr. Beltran engaged in a course of conduct and exerted a form of power, rooted in Ms. Cunanan’s protected characteristics, which poisoned the Church environment for her, leading her to feel she had no choice but to resign her volunteer duties and leave the Church,” according to the tribunal decision about holding a hearing.
According to information summarized in the decision, Beltran began to allegedly act inappropriately toward Cunanan in September 2016.
“She says that on one occasion, she was using the women’s washroom when Mr. Beltran came in to clean it,” Cousineau related. “He started to push her stall door open, while she said ‘someone is here!’ He then looked at her through the crack in the washroom stall. When she came out of the stall, he was still standing inside the washroom, smiling at her.”
Other alleged incidents followed, and when Cunanan aired her concerns with the church, Beltran allegedly started to cause her more discomfort.
Beltran allegedly began showing up at places in the church where she does her volunteer work. He also would be “staring angrily” at her.
“On January 8, 2017, Ms. Cunanan alleges that Mr. Beltran stared angrily at her son, and mouthed the ‘F‐‐‐ word’. Later that day, she ran into Mr. Beltran near the washroom, and almost collided with him,” Cousineau wrote in her decision.
The tribunal noted an email by Cunanan where the woman stated, “This is a typical behavior of Filipino men towards Filipino women. They tend to have a power showdown.”
“I also think that he looks down on me because I’m a single mom,” Cunanan also claimed in the email.
The woman added: “If I was married and has a husband with me, he would think twice before doing these things to me.”
The church told Cunanan in a letter that her accusations against Beltran were “unfounded”.