A Trinity Western University graduate’s complaint against the wilderness tourism company that refused to hire her is justified, the BC Human Rights Tribunal ruled March 2, 2016.
The tribunal awarded Bethany Paquette $8,500 for injury to dignity and self-respect, and $661.08 for expenses.
Paquette, who describes herself as a “proud Christian,” applied to work as an assistant guide intern for Amaruk Wilderness Corp on Sept 10, 2014.
Amaruk’s co-CEO rejected her application and sent her a series of emails in which he attacked her religion and Trinity Western, a Christian university in Langley, BC, that has made headlines for its community covenant (which threatens to discipline or expel students who have sex outside heterosexual marriage) and its contested proposal to open a law school.
Paquette filed a human rights complaint against Amaruk and its owner Christopher Fragassi-Bjornsen on Sept 30, 2014, saying the company discriminated against her on the basis of religion, ancestry and political belief when it refused to hire her.
Tribunal member Norman Trerise agreed that Paquette’s right to religious freedom was violated.
“I find that the evidence establishes that there were two issues at play in the decision to reject Ms Paquette’s application,” he writes in his ruling. “The first was her lack of the required qualifications, but also a factor was her past affiliation with TWU, establishing her, in the minds of Amaruk and its employees, as an evangelistic Christian.”
Trerise also found that Amaruk’s and Fragassi-Bjornsen’s emails to Paquette amounted to “religious harassment.”
Paquette’s lawyer Geoffrey Trotter says the decision is a victory for his client and the equal treatment of everyone, irrespective of their beliefs or background.
“It makes it clear that to reject someone from a job because of a past affiliation with a religious institution is illegal,” he says.
“Discrimination based on attendance at a religious school is a religious discrimination just as much as ‘I’m not going to hire you because you go to a mosque or a church.’ Those are proxies for religion, and employers are not allowed to reject someone on that basis,” he says.
Fragassi-Bjornsen did not respond to Daily Xtra’s request for comment by posting time.
Paquette, who is currently working for a dog sled tour company in the North, couldn’t be reached for comment by posting time, either.
“I’m happy that Bethany is currently doing exactly the kind of work she was hoping to do for Amaruk,” Trotter says. “It shows that she would have been a good candidate for them if they considered her fairly. I think future employers of Bethany will realize that she’s a courageous person and a good employee.”
TWU spokesperson Amy Robertson says the decision affirms that Paquette and her fellow TWU graduates should not be discriminated against because of their beliefs.
“As Canadians, we’re profoundly privileged to have the freedom to follow our consciences,” Robertson says. “For us, belonging to a diverse society means that everyone, regardless of their faith or lack of faith, has equal worth.”
“It also means living and working among people who may hold differing beliefs — and respecting those differences,” she says.
“We regularly hear from employers that Trinity Western University graduates have a reputation for excelling in the careers they choose, and for treating people with respect, care and dignity,” Robertson says. “We look forward to hearing what comes next for Bethany as she moves on in her career.”