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HomeBusinessCloverdale Rodeo board under fire in workplace discrimination complaint

Cloverdale Rodeo board under fire in workplace discrimination complaint

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Bob Mackin

A complaint to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal alleges the general manager and president of the Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition Association were complicit in a toxic work environment for seven years.

Ex-Cloverdale Rodeo general manager Mike MacSorely (Facebook)

The filing, from an anonymous complainant representing a group, alleges the non-profit association behind the annual Cloverdale Rodeo employed Mike MacSorely as general manager “despite knowing of Mr. MacSorely’s blatantly racist view of South Asian people and ongoing egregious conduct towards female staff and volunteers. The association, through its executive board, continuously dismissed concerns about Mr. MacSorely for years.”

The board includes Surrey city councillor Doug Elford and City of Surrey managers Swanson Kelsey and Farhad Alizadeh.

MacSorely resigned in March for what was officially described as “personal reasons.”

The association has no harassment policy or training for staff or volunteers and no complaint mechanism. Instead, it delegates authority to the general manager — who was the subject of complaints. When an investigation was finally launched early this year, the complaint said it was undermined by dismissive and sexist comments from MacSorely and the association’s four executive directors. MacSorely eventually resigned, but the association has not apologized or acknowledged any harm caused. 

The document, filed by lawyer Rachel Roy, said the association has continuously committed discrimination in employment, “by upholding a hostile and poisoned work environment and by failing to respond to race- and sex-based harassment.”

None of the allegations has been tested and MacSorely has not filed a statement of defence.

MacSorely is accused “of continuously physically and psychologically” abusing and harassing the only woman working in the association office for four years. It also alleges MacSorely refused to interview or hire anyone with an Indo-Canadian name and referred to South Asians as “carpet riders” and Hindu food as “baby diarrhea.”

The complaint also claims association president Shannon Claypool condoned MacSorely’s conduct, allegedly made unwelcome sexual advances to female volunteers and complained that the #MeToo movement was out of control.

Coun. Doug Elford (Safe Surrey Coalition)

“In January 2021, the executive directors received a letter from a former employee setting out a series of examples of Mr. MacSorely’s inappropriate conduct. This included incidents of Mr. MacSorely hitting female staff and making racist comments about racialized staff. The executive directors ignored the letter until the letter was brought to the attention of City of Surrey officials. After City officials directed the board of directors to deal with the allegations, the Board determined it would hire an external investigator.”

The other three executive directors are rodeo chair Rich Kitos, publicity chair Dale Saip and treasurer/human resources chair Gerry Spielmacher.

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