The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has ruled in favour of Toronto artist Niam Jain, 20, in a case brought against the Granite Club — an upscale athletic and social club in North Toronto.
The application alleges, “discrimination with respect to services because of disability contrary to the Human Rights Code.”
The court ruling describes the applicant as “a talented world-renowned Canadian visual artist living with autism spectrum disorder (‘ASD’ or ‘autism’) and apraxia. He is largely non-verbal with limited functional speech and a delayed response in communication.”
Jain specializes in gestural abstract art and abstract expressionism.
The complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal stems from an incident in 2020. According to the ruling, it was then that the Granite Club “imposed a requirement that the applicant be accompanied by a caregiver (the ‘caregiver requirement’) when using the Club’s locker rooms. The applicant was 17 years of age at the time of the incident.”
The tribunal ordered, amongst other things, that the Granite Club pay Jain $35,000. In addition, the club is to make special accommodations for Jain’s return, including a designated locker and a digital lock for the locker used by the applicant in the men’s locker rooms. The Granite Club is reportedly moving toward complying with the steps.
Niam’s mother, Nina Jain, said the family has been members of the Granite Club since 2008, and her son has always participated in a wide range of activities including camps and classes, without incident.
She said the incident was likely related to his son’s stimming, a repetitive and sometimes unusual body movement or noise common to those with autism, which was misunderstood by those involved.
She did say the club is committed to making the necessary changes and there has been good communication regarding the plan. Niam has also returned to the club, she said, although in a more limited way, and he feels welcomed. She added she wanted to take the opportunity presented by her son’s unfortunate experience to turn it into a positive learning opportunity.
“As a family, we hope other families may be able to use the systemic remedies to help them advocate for inclusion for their own children,” she said. “Systemic remedies coupled with education and awareness are key elements for inclusion.”