Retired Military Couple File Human Rights Complaint Against Nova Scotia Yacht Club

A retired military couple have filed a human rights complaint against a Nova Scotia yacht club.

The men say the LaHave River Yacht Club discriminated against them because of their sexual orientation and mental disability.

The club claim the charges are false and intend to challenge them.

Bill Nickerson and Richard MacLeod served in the Canadian Forces on several tours in Afghanistan. MacLeod also served in Pakistan.

The couple retired and moved to Nova Scotia in 2017. They bought a boat, then a house, next to the yacht club.

The LaHave River Yacht Club is right next to the couple’s house on the river. (Jon Tattrie/CBC)

“We knew it helped our PTSD and it was a great recreational activity moving to Nova Scotia,” Nickerson told CBC News.

They joined the yacht club, and MacLeod soon volunteered on the executive. He was vice commodore at one time, but things went downhill last year.

“Halfway through the season last year, in July, I started noticing changes. I was starting to notice people making comments in front of me. Derogatory comments in public where I was sitting in front of everyone, about being gay.”

The members reportedly said “is it a boy or a girl?” about a staff member, as well as the use of a homophobic slur. MacLeod opposed it.

Two uniformed soldiers ride on a tank with Santa Claus.
MacLeod rides with Santa Claus and another soldier during a Christmas delivery as part of Operation Medusa in Afghanistan in 2006. (Submitted by Richard MacLeod)

After that, MacLeod and Nickerson say people started asking invasive questions about their mental health and questioning their military service.

“Since then, members have been throwing trash on our property and through our ditch,” MacLeod said. “We had members who urinated in the ditch right next to the house, we had one member who continually brought his dog onto our property to relieve himself.”

The club’s management team declined to do an interview, but Richard Foy, the club’s commodore, emailed CBC News to say a lawyer had been hired and the allegations would be disputed.

“We have two members who have repeatedly misbehaved and their membership has been terminated based on the disciplinary procedures of our constitution,” he said. “They have accused the club of many things, none of which are true, and we look forward to being able to set the record straight with the human rights commission.”

A young man in a military uniform looks at the camera under a leaf shelter.
Bill Nickerson was deployed with the infantry on two tours in Afghanistan. Here, the corporal is pictured at a forward operating base in Belanday. (Submitted by Bill Nickerson)

Nickerson said he tried to introduce a code of conduct based on the one used by Sail Nova Scotia at the club’s annual general meeting, but they didn’t hear his proposal.

“We don’t live in the 1950s anymore,” Nickerson said. “We live in 2022.”

In May, MacLeod and Nickerson learned they had been suspended for at least a year.

The club has returned its costs and will not launch its boat. He’s on dry land while they try to figure out a private way to put him in the water, which would cost thousands of dollars.

MacLeod said he experienced anti-gay harassment in the military, but felt he had to live with it.

“The yacht club gave us a very clear message. If we talk, we’re going to be punished. But I’m still talking,” he said.

“The best outcome would be that we are allowed to become members again, and the club can be successful, and people can have fun there, even if they are gay, and not be bullied or harassed.”

The Human Rights Commission is expected to consider their case later this year.

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