Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Quick and the Dead: BCHRC's Showdown With Its Own Legitimacy

For as long as Human Rights Commissions have been controversial in Canada, it has frequently been said that no HRC would ever help a Christian.

It's been said that discrimination against Christians is an institutionally-accepted form of discrimination. But in the case of Bethany Paquette vs Amaruk Wilderness Group (aka an epic bunch of Norwegian assholes), that notion will be tested.

It hasn't been very often that a HRC news story in Canada has featured any actual, demonstrable discrimination. But this one has. This isn't t say that HRCs rarely deal with cases of genuine discrimination, but that those cases rarely make headlines. But this one has.

Bethany Paquette applied tfor a job with Amaruk Wilderness Group. Paquette is an experienced river rafting guide. She applied for a job as -- get this -- a guide. But she also has something that soured the deal: a biology degree from Trinity Western University.

So apparently it wasn't enough for Olaf Amundsen, a self-aggrandizing buffoon in the company's human resources department (as it were) to merely tell Paquette that she wasn't qualified for the job. (This would apparently be untrue, based on Paquette's experience.) Instead he felt compelled to write her an email abusing her for what he simply presumed were her religious beliefs.

"Unlike Trinity Western University, we embrace diversity, and the right of people to sleep with or marry whoever they want," he declared. But as it turns out, Amundsen is quite the bigot himself. "The Norse background of most of the guys at the management level means that we are not a Christian organization, and most of us actually see Christianity as having destroyed our culture, tradition and way of life."

Ironically, that's an allegation made against LFBT persons by those Christians who happen to believe in discriminating against them.  Mr Amundsen isn't nearly as different from such people as he'd like to believe.

If you read the law strictly, by the letter, Mr Amundsen and his friends at Amaruk are, to use a parlance he and his cohorts will appreciate, fucked. It's unlawful to discriminate against someone on the basis of their religion in matters of employment. Mr Amundsen may think himself clever enough to try to skate around it -- claiming that he was merely expressing his opinion after rejecting an allegedly-unqualified applicant. But Paquette;s qualifications put the lie to that. Mr Amundsen is entirely transparent, and dead to rights. Even the Britisch Columbia Civil Liberties Union seems to think as much.

He's not even necessarily wrong about some things. When he states that Trinity Western University's values covenant -- which requires students at the university to publicly affirm a belief in traditional marriage in order to be permitted to attend the university -- is discriminatory.

It's also inherently coercive. So for Amundsen to ascribe such beliefs to Paquette -- whether she believes in such things or not -- is presumptive. To then churn these presumptions out in an email laden with bigoted remarks about Christianity is, in a word, stupid.

Then again bigots such as Amundsen are rarely intellectual giants.

If the letter of the law is more important to the BCHRC than the individual biases of HRC commissioners, then Olaf Amundsen and Amaruk Winderness Group are, to put it most simply, fucked.

Unless, of course, all the people who have said that a Human Rights Commission would never help a Christian, even in cases of actual discrimination, are right. But if they are, then these institutions have no legitimacy at all, and must be abolished.

Your move, BCHRC.

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