Wrestler ‘Hannibal’ loses human rights fight against the City of Ottawa

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has ended an Ottawa wrestler’s win streak after he successfully fought to get his job back from the City of Ottawa.

Devon Nicholson, a once WWE-recruited scrapper who wrestles under the name Hannibal, wanted the human rights tribunal to rule that the city was being discriminatory when it banned him from using municipal recreation facilities in 2013 while he was undergoing experimental medical treatments for hepatitis C.

Nicholson battled city hall on two fronts: through a labour appeal in an effort to get his city job back after he was fired, and through a human rights complaint related to his use of city recreation facilities.

He was a part-time gym attendant at the Ray Friel Centre when the city fired him in 2013, based on an incident that was characterized as aggressive behaviour toward another staffer, who was Nicholson’s former wrestling videographer. The city also issued a trespass notice against Nicholson, who was a user of the city’s recreation facilities, because of his behaviour.

The city went after his job and Nicholson appealed to an arbitrator, who agreed that a dismissal was too punitive and ruled a two-month suspension was more appropriate. Nicholson won his job back.

That was the latest legal victory for Nicholson, who in 2014 won $2.2 million in damages from a court decision after he successfully argued he contracted hepatitis C from a wrestler called Abdullah the Butcher during a 2007 match. The illness scuttled Nicholson’s opportunity at WWE stardom.

Nicholson participated in experimental drug therapy for hepatitis C and was on sick leave from his city job in 2013 when the incident of aggressive behaviour happened. He linked his behaviour to the side effects of his medical treatment, which eventually rid him of the virus.

Nicholson had his human rights complaint going at the same time as his arbitration case, but the arbitration took priority. When the arbitration was finished, the human rights case was reactivated.

At the human rights tribunal, Nicholson alleged the city’s decision to ban him from municipal recreation facilities was discriminatory, considering he was undergoing treatment for a disability.

However, the tribunal didn’t think Nicholson had a prospect of winning without providing the medical evidence that proves his behaviour was caused by the medical treatment. According to the tribunal’s decision, Nicholson declined to call medical evidence in support of his condition and treatment.

Nicholson said he doesn’t feel the hepatitis C treatment side effects were fully considered by the tribunal.

Reached by email while out of town training for New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Nicholson said he would consider a judicial appeal.

“It was an uphill battle, me representing myself versus the city with an entire legal department at their disposal, but I don’t regret standing up for myself,” he said.




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