(solved) The Human Right Code

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Date Issued: _____________File: 3920Indexed as: Wedbells v. Province of British Columbia, 2017 BCHRT 3920IN THE MATTER OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS CODER.S.B.C. 1996, c. 210 (as amended)AND IN THE MATTER of a complaint beforethe British Columbia Human Rights TribunalB E T W E E N:Mary WedbellsCOMPLAINANTA N D:The Province of British ColumbiaRESPONDENTSREASONS FOR DECISIONTribunal Member:[student name/number]Counsel for the Complainant:Dora D. ExplorerCounsel for the Respondent:Bert ErnestDate of Hearing:October 17, 2017Written Submissions:October 18, 2017Location of Hearing:Kamloops
I.INTRODUCTION and BACKGROUND[1]The Complainant was a marriage commissioner hired by the Province of British Columbia toconduct Wedding ceremonies at various times and locations. She was one of three commissionersappointed in the Kamloops region and she has been performing marriage ceremonies for the pasttwenty years without incident or complaint.[2]In her role as marriage commissioner the Complainant would attend at homes, resorts, or otherlocations to perform non-denominational Wedding ceremonies for which she was paid a flat fee plustravel by the Respondent.[3]The Complainant is also a member of the Bible Truth Christian Ministries (“BTCM”) church inKamloops. She is active in the congregation and volunteers regularly for its many activities includingcooking meals at a local homeless shelter, sewing baby clothes for donation to low income mothers andother charitable work done by her church community. The Kamloops Society for Poverty Preventionnamed her the “Difference Maker of the Year” in 2016.[4]BTCM believes in a traditional definition of marriage as being between one man and onewoman. The Complainant states that she never tried to “convert” people when she performed amarriage ceremony and she understood that her role as a marriage commissioner was not to preach anyparticular faith to those requiring her services.[5]The evidence clearly shows that the Complainant was diligent in the performance of hermarriage commissioner duties and there were no complaints about the service she generally provided.She did her work professionally and was always reliable and pleasant in the performance of her duties.[6]On or about May 6, 2016, the Complainant was contacted by William Salsa and Gerald Pepper.Mr. Salsa and Mr. Pepper are a same sex couple who were seeking a marriage commissioner to performtheir Wedding service in June of 2016. They had heard through friends that the Complainant was anengaging and capable marriage commissioner who added both warmth and charm to a friend’s weddingceremony some months earlier.[7]The Complainant politely informed Salsa and Pepper that she could not perform their Weddingceremony as doing so would be a violation of her deeply held religious convictions. She made a point ofstating to this couple that she harboured no ill will towards them but felt that officiating such aceremony would be a deep sin in the eyes of God. She did provide Salsa and Pepper with the names ofthe other two marriage commissioners in the region, both of whom were prepared to perform same sexmarriage services.[8]Salsa and Pepper filed a formal complaint against Ms. Wedbells (the “Complainant”) with theGovernment of British Columbia (the “Respondent” ). In response, the Respondent contacted theComplainant to advise her that she was expected to perform same sex marriages as part of her duties asa marriage commissioner. Again, the Complainant stated that while she loved all of God’s people, she
could not violate what she viewed as very clear church teaching. As a result, the Complainant was firedas a marriage commissioner.[9}The Complainant asserts that her termination is unjustified and she is being discriminatedagainst based upon her religious beliefs.II.SUBMISSIONS OF THE COMPLAINANT[10]The Complainant asserts that she has the right to peacefully practice her religion that has beeninfringed upon by the unilateral and unfair ruling of the Respondent. She states that she understandsthat gay people have the legal right to marry each other in British Columbia. While she and othermembers of her faith community view this as sinful, the Complainant states she would not attempt toprevent a same sex marriage from happening. At the same time, the Complainant states that she couldnot defy her deeply held religious convictions by participating and facilitating such a marriage.[11]The Complainant draws a parallel between her situation and that of a physician who is morallyopposed to abortion. A physician is entitled to refuse to perform abortions on the basis of conscienceand his or her refusal to do this sort of work does not detract a women’s right to choose whether or notto terminate a pregnancy. Other medical practitioners provide this service and women are not deniedaccess to this right.[12]The Complainant argues that this is the same sort of accommodation that could easily beprovided to her. There are two other marriage commissioners who are prepared to perform same sexWedding ceremonies and as such, homosexual couples have ample access to this sort of service shouldthey desire same. It is unfair, she argues, to force her to perform this service just like it would be unfairto force a surgeon with faith based objections to abortion to perform that sort of service.[13]The Complainant asserts that the Respondent has belittled religious faith by writing it off assomething 'you do in your head or on weekends' without it impacting all of a person's life. This is, sheasserts, a serious misunderstanding of Christian faith or any faith for that matter. The Complainantdescribed herself as an evangelical Christian and it is her belief that her life and words are a witness tothe Lord. Part of her faith is her belief that God created male and female persons for the sanctity ofmarriage, and that marriage between same sex couples is a sin in the eyes of God.[14]The Complainant states that the effect of the Respondent’s decision sets up a hierarchy of rightssaying that same-sex rights are more important than freedom of conscience and religion. This, sheasserts is wrong and that all rights should be treated as being on an equal footing in society. She statesthat no one should be subject to any obligation or sanction because of their belief that marriage is theunion of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others and Commissioners who hold a "traditional orheterosexual" definition of marriage should not be forced to find another career or be subjected to finesand punishment. "We talk about people being in the closet, well now they are saying somebody of afaith perspective is supposed to keep it in the closet," she stated.
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