The BC Human Rights Tribunal has dismissed a case against UBC and four of its professors by a student who alleged she was discriminated against as a Christian.
“It’s a really clear decision,” says one of the professors named in the case, queer English professor Lorraine Weir. “I’m very pleased with it.”
But, notes Weir, Cynthia Maughan has now reactivated her $18-million lawsuit against the university and its four professors in BC Supreme Court.
The Anglican Maughan had alleged that a series of events, starting with an e-mail in November 2000, constituted ongoing discrimination against her and subjected her to hatred and contempt as a Christian.
In the e-mail, another UBC student said then-Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day made him “recall fondly a time-period when Christians were stoned.”
The two students ended up together in Weir’s graduate-level English class on transgressive literature. In March 2001, Weir scheduled an extra seminar for the class on a Sunday at the other student’s home. Maughan refused to go, both because the class was on a Sunday and because of the location.
Maughan later acknowledged she did schoolwork on Sundays and was not a regular church attendee. But she felt that, under the circumstances, attending the Sunday seminar violated her religious beliefs.
Tribunal member Judy Parrack dismissed Maughan’s case in its entirety Jan 20. It was Maughan’s lateness in filing her complaint-and her attempt to link unrelated events into a pattern of discrimination-which ultimately scuttled it.
“It strains credulity to accept that Ms Maughan, or her counsel, did not know of the [BC Human Rights] Code, its provisions or the time limits set out in the Code,” writes Parrack. “Ms Maughan filed her complaint on March 30, 2005. This event [the e-mail] occurred almost four and a half years prior to the filing of the complaint and almost four years outside the time limit for filing a complaint under the Code.”
Prior to filing her complaint with the tribunal, Maughan launched an $18-million lawsuit in October 2002 against UBC, Weir, Susanna Egan, who was the associate head of the English department, and professors Anne Scott and Judy Segal, who had written letters in support of Weir as part of an internal UBC appeal brought by Maughan.
“Now that [the human rights case] has been resolved in our favour and not hers, she’s reactivated the lawsuit,” says Weir.
“If we have to go on to this next and last suit, we do so with this decision in hand,” she adds.
The BC Supreme Court hearing is scheduled for three weeks in October.
Neither Maughan nor her former lawyer, Gerald Chipeur, could be reached for comment.