A former Winnipeg paramedic being sued for defamation by a city firefighter he accused of racist conduct on the job has countered with a lawsuit of his own.
In a statement of defence filed Monday, Nishanth Jayaranjan denies defaming firefighter Kelcey French, and claims French submitted a false report to the College of Paramedics of Manitoba and made false statements under a social media pseudonym, costing him employment and causing emotional distress.
Jayaranjan is asking for an unspecified amount in special and aggravated damages, and orders directing French to apologize in writing and barring French from "making, publishing or disseminating defamatory statements."
The long-standing Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service conflict landed in court Aug. 11, when French filed a statement of claim asking $600,000 in damages over allegations Jayaranjan targeted him with a "defamatory campaign."
The pair were among the first responders at a medical call Oct. 7, 2020, in which a 23-year-old Indigenous woman had stabbed herself in the throat with a broken bottle.
In his statement of defence, Jayaranjan says he was the first emergency crew on scene (aside from police) and was in charge of delivering medical instructions to other responders. He alleges French refused repeated requests to help the patient or to accompany them in an ambulance until instructed to by an on-scene WFPS lieutenant.
In the ambulance, Jayaranjan claims the firefighter refused to provide medical support, leaving the patient to stop the bleeding from her neck with her own hands — a development later stated in the patient care report.
In his statement of claim, French alleges Jayaranjan was "hostile and aggressive" during the ambulance ride. While Jayaranjan denies the allegations, he admits to calling French expletives and "keyboard warrior" out of "frustration and exhaustion" once the ambulance arrived at Health Sciences Centre, documents show.
Details of the incident were reported in an Oct. 8 email to then-WFPS chief John Lane, along with 10 other city and union representatives. That email was shared with a Free Press reporter, and an article published — without naming either WFPS member — the following week.
The email was "part of an ongoing complaint" of racism in the service with respect to social media posts from June 2020, according to the statement of defence.
A third-party investigation into the incident, which concluded in February, found French and another firefighter had ignored requests to help the patient due to "racial animus" and "implicit racial bias" towards both the patient and Jayaranjan.
In the 78-page report, Laurelle Harris of Equitable Solutions Consulting found the firefighters’ conduct delayed the patient’s transport to the hospital, and ruled it was "more likely than not" French had refused to help due to "personal animus" arising from knowledge Jayaranjan had previously complained to superiors about racism from firefighters.
French was a union executive with the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg at the time and would have been privy to information about the nature of Jayranajan’s complaints, the documents state.
In his statement of claim, French alleges Jayaranjan deliberately disseminated "false" claims French racially discriminated against both Jayaranjan and the patient by falsifying patient care reports, sharing an internal complaint with members of the media, making anonymous claims of harassment on social media, and filing a police report claiming French had attended both Jayaranjan's home and Jayaranjan's parents' house.
Jayaranjan, in the court documents, denies all those allegations.
The statement of defence alleges French showed up at Jayaranjan's home weeks after the incident and caused a disturbance that prompted "someone else" to call police.
Jayaranjan alleges French retaliated to the Harris report "with malicious intent" by filing a "false and defamatory complaint" with the paramedics college on the Oct. 7, 2020, incident. The complaint was an attempt to "destroy (his) good standing and reputation" and "jeopardize his licence," documents say.
Jayaranjan further alleges the complaint was detailed in social media posts in an effort to further discredit him as "a troublemaker who accuses others of racism without legitimate reason."
"As a result of the defamation, (Jayaranjan) has been unable to return to work at the City of Winnipeg, and has suffered considerable damage to his reputation in the community and with current and future employers," the countersuit claims.
None of the allegations made in the documents have been proven in court.
Julia-Simone Rutgers is a general-assignment reporter.