Sunday, 10 August 2014

Much Ado About Religious Accommodation

Much is being made of a decision by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) managers at Toronto's Pearson airport to allow a small group of Hindu priests to avoid screening by female border guards to comply with their religious beliefs.

Apparently some female CBSA officers feel that they were discriminated against by this decision. I could understand an outrage if female officers were only allowed to deal with female visitors but this was a small exemption made for a special case. Why all the fuss about this when so many more significant examples of religious discrimination are entrenched in our laws and practices in the name of freedom of religion.

For example an employer being allowed to designate higher profile positions for males only and more subservient positions for women only. This is a clear violation of all Canadian employment legislation and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms but still allowed in the name of freedom of religion.

What about persons delegated by the state the right to perform legal marriage ceremonies being allowed to discriminate in terms of who they will marry on the basis of their personal religious beliefs.

And much more serious, medical practitioners, such as doctors and pharmacists, being allowed to refuse to provide medical treatment or services on the basis of their personal religious beliefs.

Perhaps one of the most outrageous examples of discriminatory religious accommodation, a clear violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but constitutionally allowed, is the public funding of religious-based schools for one religious group only (and not even the largest group at that) - a huge government subsidy to one religious group that all political parties are afraid to deal with because of the risk of losing that groups votes.

If we are to be outraged by inappropriate religious accommodation let us be outraged by matters of substance, not by attempts to accommodate a small groups religious preference that has little impact on others' rights.

Postscript

This post sees the return of the Fifth Column after an interregnum, not caused by a lack of ideas but simply a lack of motivation to make the effort to write them down. Hopefully my posts will be more regular from now on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's weird that you felt compelled to come out of a half-year hiatus to publicly declare that you don't think it's important that a blatant act of religion-based misogynist discrimination was allowed to happen in a government workplace. Very strange priorities.