Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Canadian Court Finds Human Rights Act Violation In School's Denying Prayer Space To Muslim Students

In Webber Academy Foundation v Alberta (Human Rights Commission), (AB QB, Aug. 10, 2016), a Canadian trial court in the province of Alberta upheld a decision of the Alberta Human Rights Commission finding that a private school violated the Alberta Human Rights Act by refusing to allow Muslim students a place for their daily prayers. The school argued that it is non-denominational and no kinds of religious activities are to be carried out on campus. Affirming the Human Rights Commission's $26,000 damage award, the court said in part:
Webber Academy, to its credit, adopted a public policy of welcoming young people of many faiths and cultures, and to exemplify its policy, published photographs of students with turbans and facial hair even though these practices contravened usual school policies.
For some reason, it drew the line at Sunni prayer rituals, conducted in private, in a place that was convenient to the school and the students from time to time. Its policy thus discriminated against the belief of the complainant Sunni Muslim students as compared, for example, to students who overtly averred their religious affiliation by forms of dress and grooming. There was no demonstrated hardship, let alone undue hardship, motivating this policy.
Canadian Press reports on the decision.