Former Parkdale United Church organist Desmond Hassell, 87, appeared before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario on Tuesday.
Credits: TONY SPEARS/OTTAWA SUN/QMI AGENCY
And it worked, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario heard Tuesday.
Accused of "harassment and bullying" at a hastily convened meeting of a Parkdale United Church committee in September 2006, Hassell heard from members that he might soon see the inside of a criminal court.
The church's organist of 16 years was told the substance of the charge and the name of his accuser was confidential.
Hassell feared they were referring to a young lady youth co-ordinator and was suddenly terrified that his accusers might be hinting at sex charges.
"She's a young woman," Hassell, 87, explained. "If that young woman is accusing me of harassment, I have to consider whether it was plain harassment or if there was a sexual element. - I knew the chance was slim, but it was there."
Although United Church lawyer Gary Boyd said there was never any suggestion of sexual harassment, he did tell Hassell he could be fired without cause with 30 days notice under the terms of his contract.
Hassell said there's "no way" the board would have sacked him.
"They were the ones who were congratulating me every Sunday," he said.
The day after that scary September 2006 meeting, Hassell agreed to leave.
But he soon learned the actual complaint against him was trivial and contained nothing about "harassment and bullying," and certainly nothing sexual.
The church "chose to defame my character and force my resignation," Hassell said.
He appealed for a formal hearing from upper levels of the church hierarchy but he was denied so he went to the tribunal.
He hopes it will order the church to follow its own rules.
Boyd, however, said church regulations allowed the high-level committee to determine no hearing was necessary.
Alleged musical autocrat Dr. Anthony Bailey, Parkdale's senior minister, did not testify; Hassell was the only witness.
The day-long hearing -- which spent hours interpreting United Church regulations and little time on human rights arguments -- wrapped up Tuesday afternoon.
Tribunal Vice-chair Leslie Reaume will issue a written ruling in the coming weeks.