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Queen's University

Religious Discrimination

Religious Dress: When does public safety override human rights?

In Dhillen (1999), a tribunal determined that a Sikh motorist wearing a turban should be allowed to take a test for a motorcycle license, because the potential risk incurred by not wearing a helmet affected only his own safety. In Pannu (2000), however, a tribunal ruled that an employer had not discriminated against a Sikh recaust worker when it dismissed him for refusing to shave his beard because the potential risk incurred by having facial wear affected the safety of his co-workers. Similarly, In Nijjar(1999),  a tribunal ruled that a Sikh passenger wearing a kirpan should not be allowed a seat on an airplane because the potential for injury affected the safety of other passengers.

Holy Days: When can an employee get time off to celebrate holy days?

In O'Malley (1985), the Supreme Court ruled that an employer had failed to accommodate, to the point of undue hardship, a Seventh-day Adventist employee who lost her full-time status when she refused to work on her Sabbath. In Roosma (1995),however, an Ontario Board of Inquiry ruled that an employer was not guilty of discrimination when it dismissed two employees adhering to the Worldwide Church of God for repeatedly missing work on certain holy days because accommodating them would have incurred undue hardship.

Religious-Based Conduct:  To what extent must an employer accommodate an employee's religious-based conduct?

In Moore (1992),the B.C. Human Rights Council ruled in favour of a Roman Catholic employee who had been fired without being accommodated when she refused, on religious grounds, to grant a client medical coverage for an abortion. Similarly, in Kurvits (1991), the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled in favour of a Baptist  employee whose union wrongfully denied him the right to transfer his union dues to a Baptist church that, for religious reasons, did not comply with the Income Tax Act.

Special Interest Organizations: Under what circumstances may an employer fire an employee for religious non-conformity?

In Caldwell (1984), the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of a Catholic High School who fired a teacher upon discovering that she was not Catholic. Similarly, in Schroen (1999), a Board of Adjudication ruled in favour of a Mennonite college that dismissed an accounting clerk upon learning she was not Mennonite.

Provision of Services:  Do service providers have the right to discriminate, based on their religious beliefs, against groups protected by human rights law?

In Fancy (1993),a Board of Inquiry ruled that a School Division had discriminated against religious minorities when it allowed schools to give Bible readings in the mornings and to recite the Lord's prayer at school assemblies.  In Brockie (2000), an Ontario Board of Inquiry determined that a Born-again Christian had unjustly discriminated against a gay client when the former refused, on religious grounds, to provide the latter with printing services.

 Freedom of expression: When do constitutional rights override Human Rights?

In Ross (1996),the Supreme Court supported a board of Inquiry's ruling against a teacher who professed hatred against Jews, explaining that the elimination of discrimination overruled the individual's freedom of speech.  In Trinity Western University (1998), the B.C. Court of Appeal (in a split decision) ruled that the B.C.College of Teachers did not have the right to deny entry to Trinity Western University, whose religiously-based policies were explicitly homophobic


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