Until this week, Darin Hodge was a manager at the Teahouse in Stanley Park, a seafood restaurant in Vancouver's largest park.
On Tuesday, he refused to serve a customer wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat. On Thursday, he was fired.
But he doesn't regret any of it.
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The details about what exactly happened when a customer came into the Teahouse wearing a MAGA hat on Tuesday remain somewhat murky. The restaurant's general manager Andy Crimp told CBC News that the patron was sitting on the patio and that Hodge, who was floor manager at the time, asked him to take the hat off. The customer countered that he had a right to wear what he wanted, Crimp said, and Hodge allegedly answered that he wouldn't serve the man if he didn't remove his hat. So the man left.
This is where accounts differ somewhat: in a statement he gave CTV News, Hodge said he didn't explicitly refuse the man service, although he did ask him to remove the hat. Hodge did not immediately respond to HuffPost Canada's requests for comment.
The bright red "Make America Great Again" hats came to prominence when then-candidate Donald Trump started wearing them on the campaign trail in 2016. They've become instantly recognizable as a symbol of right-wing political affiliation and support for Trump, and are sold in Canada on the website for conservative activist Ezra Levant's media organization, The Rebel. In fact, federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has said he will reject future interview requests from The Rebel given its affiliation with far-right hate groups unless it changes its editorial direction.
The organization's site also sells "Make Canada Great Again" hats, at least one of which was spotted in the crowd at Premier Doug Ford's swearing-in ceremony on Friday.
In a statement, Hodge told the Vancouver Sun the hat symbolizes hate and intolerance, and that he felt he had to act against those forces. "The MAGA hat has come to symbolize racism, bigotry, Islamophobia, misogyny, white supremacy, homophobia," he said.
But the Teahouse's parent company, the Sequoia Company of Restaurants, says Hodge's refusal to serve the customer was its own form of discrimination, and that he was fired for displaying a bias that's incompatible with the company's values.
"Sequoia does not support intolerance of any kind, and it is because of these principles that we cannot discriminate against someone based on their support for the current administration in the United States or any other bona fide political party," vice-president of operations Eva Gates said in a statement.
B.C's. human rights code protects the political beliefs of employees, but not of people being provided services or accommodations, the Sun reports. Global News consulted a human rights lawyer who said companies are allowed to fire employees for reasons unrelated to performance, although an employee could then sue for wrongful dismissal. If Hodge were to do that, the court case would involve a debate about how valid the company's choice to fire him actually was.
For his part, Hodge says he feels strongly that he made the right choice, even though he lost his job. "As a person with a strong moral backbone, I had to take a stand against this guest's choice of headwear while in my former place of work," he said in his statement. "Absolutely no regrets."
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