Active Cases

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Index

Gillies v. Bluewater District School Board – defending freedom of expression at school boards public meetings

Cyrynowski v. Danielle – mother of three facing Human Rights Complaint for asking potential babysitter if he had children of his own

Cyrynowski v. Todd – defending single dad facing Human Rights Complaint for asking the age and gender of a potential babysitter

AB v. CD – intervention to defend parental rights to refuse consent to hormone treatment

JY v. Various Waxing Salons – defending women against government compulsion of intimate services

PARLA v. Prince Albert – challenge to City’s decision to ban flag from courtesy flag pole

BCM International v. Canada –  challenging discrimination in the 2019 Canada Summer Jobs program

Spot Ads et al v. Municipal District of Foothills – challenging municipal ban on certain billboard signs

Spence v. Manitoba Public Insurance – challenging revocation of “NDN CAR” license plate

A.A. v. Simcoe Muskoka Child Services – challenging discriminatory denial of foster parents’ application

Grace Chapel v. New Westminster – challenging city decision to challenge rental for church youth event

Weld v. Ottawa Public Library – challenging libraries decision to cancel booking to show a film

Andersons v. Canada small business challenge to 2018 Canada Summer Jobs Attestation

PT et al v. Albertaparents’ and private schools’ constitutional challenge to Bill 24

Troller v. Manitoba Public Insurance – challenging revocation of “ASIMIL8” license plate

Grabher v. Nova Scotia – challenging revocation of “GRABHER” license plate

Servatius v. School District 70 (Alberni) – challenge to public school’s mandatory smudging of children

UAlberta Pro-Life v. University of Alberta – challenge to imposition of security fee on peaceful display

 

Gillies v. Bluewater District School Board

The Justice Centre has filed an application for Judicial Review in the Divisional Court in Ontario on behalf of Dr. Ann Gillies against the Bluewater District School Board for its breach of her constitutionally protected freedom of expression.

The School Board holds public meetings, as it is required to under the Education Act and in accordance with its own By-Laws. Those By-laws specifically state that members of the community will be provided with an avenue to speak at meetings of the Board, in order to foster effective communication between the Board and the community. To register to speak at a meeting, members of the community are simply required to give notification to the Board of their intention to speak, and a brief summary of their presentation, one week prior to the meeting.

Dr. Gillies is a professional counsellor who holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Professional Counselling and maintains a private practice with extensive experience in trauma therapy, crisis intervention, disaster relief work, pastoral counselling and anger management. She and her husband have several grandchildren, one of whom is a student in the Bluewater School District.

On April 16, 2019, Dr. Gillies wrote to the Board and gave notice of her intent to speak at the upcoming Board meeting on May 21, 2019. Dr. Gillies told the Board that she wanted to speak to Ontario’s mandate to raise a gay pride flag at all schools during the month of June. “I believe that this is a special right not afforded to other interest groups and therefore discriminatory,” stated Dr. Gillies in her notice to the Board.

On May 8, 2019, the Board denied her request to speak, allegedly in accordance with their Human Rights policy.

As a government body, the School Board is required to act in accordance with the Charter, and its decisions are subject to judicial review. The Board created a space for public expression at its board meetings, and that expressive activity is protected by section 2(b) of the Charter. It has a duty not to infringe that freedom of expression, unless it can show that such a restriction is reasonable and justifiable.

The Board also has a responsibility to give proper reasons for its decision, that are comprehensive enough to allow Dr. Gillies to understand why the Board rejected her request to present at a public meeting. The Board does not have the right under its own By-laws to reject a delegation, except on very narrow terms which do not apply here. Its decision to do so was based on irrelevant and unlawful considerations.

The Justice Centre is seeking an order to have this decision set aside, and to require the Board to allow Dr. Gillies to present at a public Board meeting. We are also seeking a declaration that the Board’s decision was made without justification and is an unreasonable violation of Dr. Gillies’ freedom of expression protected under section 2(b) of the Charter.

Cyrynowski v. Danielle

The Justice Centre has written to the Alberta Human Rights Commission on behalf of an Alberta mom who is facing a Human Rights Complaint for simply asking a potential babysitter whether he had kids.

Danielle, whose surname is redacted to protect her family’s privacy, is an Edmonton mother of three young children. In February of this year, Danielle posted an ad on Kijiji looking for a babysitter for her children.

On February 6, 2019, the Complainant, James Cyrynowski, responded to the ad detailing his credentials and experience. Danielle responded by asking James whether he had any children of his own and about his employment status, and by requesting references.

Numerous people contacted Danielle in response to the ad.  Danielle ultimately retained a babysitter who lived in her neighbourhood and worked close to her children’s daycare.  Danielle did not follow up further with Cyrynowski or with other individuals who had contacted her online.

Likewise, Cyrynowski did not make any attempt to follow up with Danielle.  Rather, on April 30, 2019, he filed a Complaint against Danielle, alleging discrimination on the basis of family status in violation of section 8 of the Alberta Human Rights Act.  In his Complaint, he stated:

I applied for a caregiver job on Kijiji.  I was asked if I have children.  I do not.  I did not get the job.

On June 6, 2019, the Alberta Human Rights Commission accepted Cyrynowski’s complaint against Danielle, and sent her a letter requiring that she provide a detailed response to the Complaint.  This has caused Danielle significant stress and anxiety as she has been forced to attempt to respond to these legal proceedings filed against her.

Cyrynowski is the same Complainant who filed a Human Rights Complaint against Todd, a single father of two who asked Cyrynowski to provide his age and gender when he applied to babysit Todd’s children. After announcing that it would represent Todd pro bono, the Justice Centre learned of Danielle’s case and agreed to represent her on a pro bono basis until the Complaint is dismissed.

The Commission’s decision to accept and investigate Cyrynowski’s complaints has come under scrutiny in light of the Commission’s own precedent in a similar case, in which the Commission ruled that parents have the right to hire babysitters based on the parents’ own preferences.  In this previous case, Cyrynowski filed a complaint against a mother of a five-year-old boy, who placed a Kijiji ad stating her preference for “an older lady with experience.”  A human rights investigator recommended that the mother be required to pay Cyrynowski $1,000 to $1,500 for “damages to dignity.”  The investigator’s recommendation was rejected by the Director and Chief Commissioner of the Alberta Human Rights Commission, who dismissed Cyrynowski’s complaint and upheld the right of a parent to exercise her own preference in regard to who looks after her child in her own home.  Cyrynowski appealed the Commission’s decision to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, then to the Alberta Court of Appeal, and both courts upheld the Commission’s rejection of Cyrynowski’s complaint.  The Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear a further appeal.

In her 2017 decision on the Cyrynowski test case, Justice Pentelechuk specifically found that legislative review and reform was needed to clarify the Alberta Human Rights Act. However, to date, the Alberta Government has not taken further action to review the Alberta Human Rights Act.

The Justice Centre has written a letter to the Alberta Human Rights Commission, calling on the Commission to dismiss the Complaint against Danielle and respect the rights of children and parents protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Cyrynowski v. Todd

The Justice Centre has written to the Alberta Human Rights Commission on behalf of Alberta resident, Todd, who is facing a formal Complaint under the Alberta Human Rights Act, for having asked about the age and gender of a potential babysitter for his young children.

Todd is a single father with two sons, who were ages 5 and 8 at the time.  On August 31, 2017, Todd posted an ad on Kijiji looking for a babysitter for an evening.  One of those who responded to the ad was the Complainant, James Cyrynowski.  Todd replied to Mr. Cyrynowski asking some basic questions about Mr. Cyrynowski, including what town he lived in, what his age was and whether he was male or female.  Mr. Cyrynowski answered these questions.

However, Todd’s evening plans fell through, and so he cancelled his plans to hire a sitter.  Todd didn’t contact Cyrynowski further.  Mr. Cyrynowski did not follow up with Todd either.

Rather than follow up with Todd, Mr. Cyrynowski filed a Human Rights Complaint against Todd the very next day, alleging discrimination on the basis of age and gender, in violation of section 8 of the Alberta Human Rights Act.

The Justice Centre is representing Todd pro bono in this case, and has learned that Todd is one of many parents who, after they did not hire Mr. Cyrynowski as a babysitter, were subsequently subject to Human Rights Complaints.

One such Complaint has already been completely adjudicated all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada as a test case.  In that case, Mr. Cyrynowski filed a complaint against the mother of a five-year-old boy, who placed a Kijiji ad stating her preference for “an older lady with experience :).”  A human rights investigator recommended that the mother be required to pay Mr. Cyrynowski $1000-$1500 for “damages to dignity.”

The Director and Chief Commissioner of the Alberta Human Right Commission dismissed Mr. Cyrynowski’s complaint against this mother.  The Chief Commissioner stated that  the parent’s “preference for who looks after her child in her own home” is a bona fide occupational requirement; the mother is entitled to insist on a babysitter who is older and female.

That holding was affirmed as reasonable by the Alberta Court  of Queen’s Bench, in its 2017 decision in Cyrynowski v Alberta (Human Rights Commission), 2017 ABQB 745.  Writing in that case, Justice Pentelechuck urged that the Alberta Human Rights Act be reformed, stating specifically that “it may be inappropriate to subject employers – in situations where the provision of personal services in a private home setting is engaged – to strict advertising and hiring requirements.”  Mr. Cyrynowski’s further appeals of this test case to the Alberta Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada were denied.

Since 2017, the Alberta Government has not taken further action to review the Alberta Human Rights Act.

The Justice Centre’s letter to the Commission requests that the Director dismiss the Complaint for the reasons set out in Cyrynowski case, and on account of the constitutional rights of Todd and his children that would be violated by proceeding with the Complaint.

AB v. CD

The Justice Centre has applied to intervene in the case of AB v. CD in the British Columbia Court of Appeal.

The case concerns a female-born minor proceeding with testosterone treatments to transition to the opposite gender. A lower court Order prohibits the publication of the names of the born-female child (“AB”), the child’s father (“CD”), the child’s mother (“EF”) and the medical professionals involved in this case. The court’s Order also prohibits using the pronouns “she” and “her” to refer to this born-female child.

The father and mother divorced about four years ago. Since that time, their female-born child was frequently in trouble in school, seeing school counselors on a regular basis.

With the support and affirmation of school counselors, the female-born child began to transition to a male identity, including taking on a male name. This was kept secret from the father, even though custody is legally shared between him and his ex-wife, and despite his legal right to know all significant happenings and developments pertaining to his own child. The father only found out after seeing his child in a school yearbook, dressed up as a boy with a new male name below the picture.

The child continued to meet with school counselors who supported AB presenting to others as a male. They referred the child to a psychologist (“Dr. IJ”), who then referred the child to “Dr. GH” at the BC Children’s Hospital. In December of 2018, Dr. GH sent the father a letter stating that the Children’s Hospital would begin giving the child testosterone within two weeks, without the father’s consent. The father then filed a court application to prevent the treatment from going ahead without his consent.

On February 27, 2019, Justice Bowden of the Supreme Court of British Columbia declared that it was in the best interests of the child to receive the controversial cross-sex hormone treatments and/or pubertal suppressant drugs, and/or whatever other treatment may be recommended by the BC Children’s Hospital, including surgeries such as mastectomy.

Justice Bowden further ordered that the female-born child be acknowledged and referred to as male, and be referred to only by the child’s new male name, both in the legal proceedings and generally. This Order applies to AB’s father and to all persons.

Further, Justice Bowden also specifically forbade the father from attempting to persuade AB to abandon this experimental treatment, which carries life-altering, permanent consequences. Calling the female-born child by the name assigned at birth or trying to persuade the child not to proceed with irreversible treatments, would constitute “family violence” under BC’s Family Law Act, according to Justice Bowden.

If granted leave to intervene, the Justice Centre will explain how children have a legal right to the protection of those who love them the most and know them the best: their own parents. The Charter protects the liberty and security interests of parents in the raising and caring for their own children, including a right to make decisions for them in fundamental matters such as participating in elective irreversible medical interventions.

The Justice Centre will also explain that compelled speech violates free expression as protected by section 2(b) of the Charter and has been described by the Supreme Court of Canada as “totalitarian, and as such alien to the tradition of free nations like Canada.” In addition to protecting every person’s freedom to speak, hear and listen, the Charter protects the right not to be compelled by the government (including the courts) to utter words which are not one’s own. By ordering the child’s father to express agreement with, or consent for, the hormone treatment, the BC lower court violated the father’s Charter right to freedom of expression.

Neither the government nor the courts will pick up the pieces of this child’s life if they are wrong regarding these treatments. It will be the parents.

There should be no irreversible medical treatment until the parents agree, or the child reaches an age with the requisite maturity of a “mature minor”.

Background Information
In the fall of 2018, Children’s Hospital staff pressured the child’s father to consent to the treatment prior to him launching a court application. The father had grave concerns about starting the treatment prior to proper consideration being given to treating AB for depression. The father also has grave concerns about the treatment itself, for reasons set out in the paragraphs below.

According to a 2011 Swedish study, people who receive affirmation therapy, cross-sex hormone therapy and surgical manipulation of their bodies, experience life-long psychological trauma and a suicide rate 19 times higher than the general population.

Further, cross-sex hormones result in irreparable changes such as increased risk of cancers, heart disease, osteoporosis and permanent infertility. Other changes include permanent voice changes, facial hair, and lower bone density.

In 2018, Brown University published Lisa Littman’s findings from a case study with 256 parents evidencing the rapid onset of gender dysphoria in adolescent girls. The study evidences a correlation between social media use and peer influence as twin factors contributing to the phenomenon.

Gender dysphoria is often linked with mental health problems and childhood trauma. It may be triggered by peer pressure, or by social environment. But gender confusion typically desists following puberty.

The psychologist who was treating AB, Dr. IJ, has publicly stated that only 2% to 20% of transgender kids stay transgender. The vast majority grow out of it. Dr. IJ’s claim is consistent with medical research, which shows that more than 80% of gender-confused children accept their biological gender by the time they are 18, absent “affirmation therapy” and cross-sex hormones.

However, if gender-confused children receive pubertal suppressant drugs and opposite-sex hormones, most will continue with the gender transition process past the age of 18.

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the Charter gives parents rights generally to make decisions for the good of their children. The law recognizes that nobody is more invested in protecting children then their parents. Parents across Canada, regardless of creed, race or political view, have a deep personal and abiding interest in their children’s health and long-term happiness. The Charter, like the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of the Child, recognizes that parents are typically in a far better position than the state to raise children, and to make decisions regarding their care.

Part of what qualifies a minor to be recognized as legally “mature” (able to make adult decisions independently from her parents and from government) is her ability to think through difficult issues, and deal maturely with opposing viewpoints.

In cases involving teenage Jehovah’s Witnesses who refuse life-saving blood transfusions, one of the things considered by courts, when assessing whether the minor is legally “mature” and able to make this decision on her own, is her capacity to hear and consider differing viewpoints. If a child is already dealing with significant emotional and mental stress that impedes her ability to rationalize and consider competing medical opinions, she will not be able to handle differing advice (for example, doctors urging her to accept a blood transfusion while religious leaders urge her to refuse this) and cannot therefore be deemed legally “mature.”

Justice Bowden’s Order prohibits the father from trying to persuade his female-born child to refrain from experimental and irreversible testosterone treatments. This assumes that the child is not sufficiently mature to handle differing opinions, and to think through the pros and cons of different options. If true, this means the child is not a mature minor. If the child is not a mature minor, the child cannot decide on serious and irreversible medical treatments; it’s up to the parents. Yet the lower court views the child as mature enough to decide on experimental medical treatments, but not mature enough to deal with the father’s objections.

JY v. Various Waxing Salons

The Justice Centre is representing two British Columbian aestheticians in hearings this week, and one later in July, at the BC Human Rights Tribunal. The three aestheticians face complaints for declining to perform waxing services for a trans-identifying individual who possesses male genitalia.

The first complaint hearing against Blue Heaven Beauty Lounge and its owner, Sandeep Banipal, proceeds on July 4, 2019. Banipal and her husband are adherents to the Sikh religion. Ms. Banipal is not trained to wax male genitals, and for religious and personal reasons is not comfortable doing so. Blue Heaven Beauty Lounge does not advertise waxing services for male genitalia. “It is not something I am comfortable or trained to do,” explained Banipal in her response to the complaint.

Banipal received notice of a complaint filed against her in March of 2018 by “JY,” whose identity is protected by the Tribunal’s anonymity Order. The complaint states that JY requested an appointment for a “Brazilian” and the request was declined. JY’s complaint cites discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression, in violation of section 8 of the BC Human Rights Code.

The Justice Centre is also defending another aesthetician, Sukhi Hehar Gill. When Hehar received JY’s request for waxing services on the Complainant’s arms and legs, Hehar was providing her services only by way of house calls, where she attended alone to female clients only. A practicing Sikh, Hehar is opposed to travelling to a client’s house if the client, apart from a given gender identity, is biologically male. “It is contrary to my faith,” explained Hehar in her response to JY’s complaint.

In addition, on July 17, 2019, the Justice Centre represented Marcia Carnauba, another aesthetician who declined JY’s request to perform waxing services because Carnauba does not have the requisite training, tools or comfort level to perform waxing services on male genitalia.

In total, JY has filed more than 12 complaints against Vancouver-area aestheticians, over their refusal to provide waxing services on biologically male genitalia. .

In a May 30, 2019 ruling in JY v. Various Waxing Salons, the BC Human Rights Tribunal expressed its concern about the “rights” of transgender women to access “gender affirming” care such as waxing, which the Tribunal says is “critical,” even if this is “a very intimate service that is sometimes performed by women who are themselves vulnerable.” The Tribunal states that JY has a “genuine grievance” about “pervasive discrimination against transgender women,” and this “is the reason that the Tribunal exists.”

The Tribunal states further that it is “troubled that some of JY’s comments, made within this process and online,” suggest that JY “holds stereotypical and negative views about immigrants to Canada.” The Tribunal stated that “on their face, many of the businesses which JY complains against appear to be run by people who speak English as a second language and/or are racialized women.”

Each of the three hearings commenced at 10:00 a.m. on July 4, 5, and 17 at the BC Human Rights Tribunal, 1170-605 Robson Street, Vancouver. The hearings were open to the public.

PARLA v. Prince Albert

The City of Prince Albert maintains a courtesy flag pole in Memorial Square at City Hall and permits groups or organizations to fly the flag “to help increase public awareness of their programs and activities.”  The City of Prince Albert regularly grants applications to use the courtesy flag pole, and issues proclamations in support of various causes, including Falun Dafa, hunger awareness, naturopathic medicine, national public works, paramedics services, motorcycle awareness, occupational health and safety, LGBT Pride, gender diversity, transgenderism, literacy, seniors and Saskatchewan Ukrainians.

PARLA is a non-profit organization, comprised of Prince Albert and area residents, which seeks to promote the sanctity of life at all stages of development.  PARLA’s work includes hosting Pro-Life events such as “Celebrate Life Week” and “Life Chain”, as well as other activities, such as providing aid to women and families with unplanned pregnancies.

As explained in the filed affidavit of Valerie Hettrick, PARLA has been permitted to raise a flag on the City’s courtesy flag pole for “Celebrate Life Week” for the past 20 years.  Since 2007, PARLA has flown the same pink and white flag with a logo of “Umbert the Unborn”, a cartoon fetus. The phrases “Celebrate Life Week” and “Please Let Me Live” also appear on the flag.

However, on or around May 4, 2017, PARLA was informed by Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne that their flag could not be raised as it was not a “national flag” or “nationally recognized flag”.  The Mayor stated that Celebrate Life Week would still be proclaimed.

PARLA sent a letter to the Mayor, requesting that he clarify in writing the requirement for a “national” flag and specify what bylaw or policy that requirement was based on.  PARLA never received a response to its letter.

The Mayor later informed the media that PARLA’s flag, used since 2007, would never again fly at City Hall, but that he would be open to a different pro-life flag.

The Justice Centre has filed a court application against the City of Prince Albert, seeking a reversal of the City’s rejection of the Prince Albert Right to Life Association’s (“PARLA”) application to continue with its annual raising of a pro-life flag.  The court application, filed on November 6, seeks judicial review of the City’s decision to deny PARLA’s application to raise their flag, and a declaration that the decision is “arbitrary, unreasonable and contrary to the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness.” The court application further seeks a declaration that the decision to deny a flag raising permit violates sections 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Finally, the application seeks a court order to permit PARLA to raise their flag on the City’s courtesy pole.

A hearing was held September 25, 2018 in Prince Albert.  Prior to this hearing, the Mayor brought forward a motion to amend the Policy by ending the practice of allowing access to a Courtesy flagpole. The motion passed, meaning that even if successful in its court application, PARLA would not be able to fly its flag on the City’s flagpole.

In its decision, the Court rebukes the City for its “mishandling of the application tendered by PARLA,” noting that “It is evident that the City did not follow its own Policy or proceed in a procedurally fair manner.” The Court concludes that it is unable to apply “any reasonable analysis [of the City’s decision], because of the lack of intelligible or transparent reasons.”

The Court dismissed the application and ordered $6,000 in costs against the City.

The Justice Centre filed a narrow appeal to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal on the basis that the lower court should have issued a declaration that the City violated PARLA’s Charter freedom of expression.

BCM International v. Canada

A registered charity running summer camps for youth has filed court applications (1, 2) against the federal government after the charity’s applications for 2019 Canada Summer Jobs grants were denied.
 
The charity, BCM (Canada) International, is a registered charitable organization, which runs two summer camps providing recreational and religious programing for youth aged 5 to 18. BCM stands for Bible Centred Ministries. BCM runs one camp at Mount Traber Bible Camp & Retreat Centre located northeast of Halifax. The other, Mill Stream Bible Camp & Retreat Centre, is located near Peterborough, Ontario.
 
For over a decade, BCM had received Canada Summer Jobs grants. BCM used the funds to provide summer jobs for high school and college students to work at its camps. But in 2018, the federal government rejected BCM’s applications because BCM could not accept the controversial 2018 Canada Summer Jobs attestation which required BCM to express agreement with the following statement:
 
Both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights, and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.
 
The Justice Centre and other organizations commenced several court actions across Canada, challenging this “attestation” as compelled speech that violates freedom of expression as protected by the Charter.
 
In December 2018, Employment, Workforce and Labour Minister Patty Hajdu announced the federal government was scrapping the controversial 2018 Canada Summer Job attestation. However, the new attestation for 2019 states: “Any funding under the Canada Summer Jobs program will not be used to undermine or restrict the exercise of rights legally protected in Canada.” Further, the following question was added to the Canada Summer Jobs application form for 2019 asking applicants to specify “how your organization will be providing a safe, inclusive, and healthy work environment free of harassment and discrimination.”
 
In January, BCM submitted applications to Canada Summer Jobs to employ students again at both Mount Traber and Mill Stream, but Service Canada rejected both CSJ applications on May 2. Regarding the Mount Traber application, Service Canada claimed that BCM had “failed to demonstrate” that it had implemented measures to provide a harassment and discrimination-free workplace.
 
In the application, BCM had already thoroughly outlined its anti-discrimination policies and the training its staff underwent to ensure an environment free of harassment and discrimination on its camps. BCM holds training sessions for staff with local RCMP and health professionals on harassment and bullying; it enforces a zero-tolerance harassment policy and maintains a confidential complaint process its complaint process to all staff and campers. BCM reviews its harassment complaint policy annually and interviews all staff and volunteers with three references and vulnerable sector checks. Finally, BCM requires all staff to attend a four-day staff training, and to complete various related courses; and has the camp director at the beginning of each camp week explain in detail to all campers and staff the importance of having a harassment and discrimination free environment.
 
Service Canada denied the Mill Stream application, claiming, without any explanation, that the summer camp positions for students would “restrict access to programs, services, or employment, or otherwise discriminate, contrary to applicable laws, on the basis of prohibited grounds, including sex, genetic characteristics, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.”
 
BCM had fully completed the 2019 application forms, including the revised attestations, and responded to Service Canada’s inquiries. These decisions have left BCM without any clarity as to why its CSJ applications were rejected.
 
In its court applications, BCM asks the court for a declaration that the Minister’s decisions were unreasonable, and unreasonably interfere with BCM’s rights protected under sections 2(a), 2(b) and 15 of the Charter. BCM also seeks a declaration that the Minister, in her decision-making process, breached her duty of procedural fairness owed to BCM by failing to provide notice of the case to be met, and by acting with bias and bad faith. Finally, BCM seeks a court order to approve its application for summer students grants and quash the original decision.

Spot Ads et al v. Municipal District of Foothills

The Justice Centre has filed a court application at the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta on behalf of two individuals and a business challenging a bylaw of the Municipal District of Foothills.  While permitting other large, highly visible signage that can readily be seen by drivers, the bylaw prohibits trailer billboard signs on the sides of highways, even when placed on private property. 

The Applicant Spot Ads Inc. is an Alberta corporation in the business of leasing advertising space on the sides of transport truck trailers placed on private property adjacent to roadways in Alberta.  Spot Ads’ signs provide affordable space for small and medium sized businesses to advertise, and for other entities to express various messages to the public, while also providing income to private property owners. 

On February 20, 2019, a Foothills Planning and Development Officer emailed Spot Ads demanding that all of Spot Ads’ trailer billboard signs within Foothills be removed.  In addition, Spot Ads has received several phone calls from Foothills Bylaw Officers threatening the imposition of fines for non-compliance. 

Applicants Gerrit and Jantje Top reside near High River, Alberta, and are rural landowners.  The Tops hold “pro-life” views regarding abortion and publicly expressed their opinions by placing billboard signs on both sides of a transport truck trailer located on their own private property adjacent to a major highway.  On one side, the Tops’ sign states, “CANADA HAS NO ABORTION LAWS” and lists the website “weneedalaw.ca”.  On the other side, the Tops’ sign shows a picture of a young woman and the text “PREGNANT? NEED HELP? YOU ARE NOT ALONE” and lists the website “CHOICE42.COM”.  

On February 1, 2019, the Tops received a letter from Foothills Patrol Division which identified the Tops’ sign as an “advertising trailer” and a “prohibited sign” pursuant to section 9.24.10 of the Land Use Bylaw.  Foothills Patrol Division requested the Tops’ sign be removed and threatened various “enforcement measures” if it was not. 

The Applicants seek no damages, but collectively contend that section 9.24.10.b of the Bylaw unjustifiably infringes freedom of expression as protected under section 2(b) of the Charter, and therefore is unconstitutional.  

Spence v. Manitoba Public Insurance

The Justice Centre is representing Bruce Spence, a Cree man living in Winnipeg, as he challenges in court the decision of Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) to revoke his personalized “NDN CAR” license plate because it “may be considered offensive.”
 
Mr. Spence is a producer with Aboriginal People’s Television Network. He purchased the “NDN CAR” plate about seven years ago. He chose the inscription on the plate as a playful reference to the popular folk-rock song “Indian Cars” by Indigenous musician Keith Secola. Like many Indigenous people, Mr. Spence likes the song “Indian Cars”.  The song is an anthem to humble people just trying to get around the best way they can.  
 
Mr. Spence wanted the plate so as to honour his Cree heritage, but also to make a witty reference to a popular song.  Further, the car he drove when he first obtained the plate somewhat resembled the car Keith Secola wrote about.  Mr. Spence has received nothing but happy smiles and thumbs up in response to the plate from fellow travelers across Canada and the United States.  He has not encountered anyone that has not recognized the plate for what it is, a humorous tribute to being an Indigenous person driving a car.  In fact, many people have asked to have their picture taken with it.
 
On May 10, 2018 Mr. Spence received a phone call from a Manitoba Public Insurance (“MPI”) staff person.  MPI informed him it had received a complaint regarding the plate, complaining that it was offensive.  Mr. Spence explained to MPI that he was an Indigenous person and that the plate was a reference to the song “Indian Cars”.  He heard nothing from MPI again until February 2019.
 
On February 12, 2019, Mr. Spence received a letter from MPI stating that the plate was “prohibited, as per our guidelines”, apparently because it had been “identified” as a “phrase or innuendo that may be considered offensive”.  The letter instructed him to “surrender” the plate to MPI. That same day, Mr. Spence called MPI, hoping to discuss why the plate was being revoked and what, if anything, he could do to keep using it. The MPI staff person he spoke with did not realize what “NDN” stood for.  He explained it meant “Indian”.  The person responded, “oh, it’s racial, I bet that’s why.”  Mr. Spence was then told that a complaint had been received by MPI regarding the and that MPI must “listen to the public”.  MPI told Mr. Spence that there was nothing he could do as the decision to revoke the plate was final and there was no appeal process.
 
With the assistance of the Justice Centre, Mr. Spence is taking court action against MPI regarding its decision.

A.A. v. Simcoe Muskoka Child Services

A northern Ontario couple has filed a court application against Simcoe Muskoka Child, Youth and Family Services (“Child Services”) over its decision to reject their application to become foster parents. 

In November 2017, the couple “A.A.” and “B.A.,” who have three biological children of their own and for their sakes wish to remain anonymous, applied to become foster parents.  They started the required training in January 2018 and completed it successfully in March, after which a Child Services social worker interviewed the couple.

The social worker asked A.A. questions regarding his religious beliefs, including whether his church “still believes in some of the more outdated parts of the Bible.”  He responded that his church believes and adheres to all of the Bible. The social worker then commented that her son is gay and that her son had been told by churches in the past that homosexuality is a sin. A.A. explained that although the Bible does identify homosexual behaviour as sinful, he believes all people are created in the image of God and are worthy of respect, dignity and honor. He further explained that, in accordance with their beliefs, he and his wife would provide any child in their care with unconditional love, respect, and compassion, and would vigorously defend all their children from harassment and bullying.  

The couple heard nothing from Child Services for the next six months.  Then, on October 24, 2018 they received a letter from Child Services communicating its decision to dismiss their application to foster.  The letter stated, “we feel that the policies of our agency do not appear to fit with your values and beliefs and therefore, we will be unable to move forward with an approval for your family as a resources home.”

On the morning of October 25, A.A. phoned their social worker and asked for clarification about which “values and beliefs” had disqualified him and his wife. The social worker responded that Child Services’ “anti-oppressive” policy conflicted with the couple’s opinions about homosexual behaviour.  He reiterated the couple’s commitment to treating any child in their care with unconditional love, respect, and compassion regardless of their sexuality, gender or anything else, but the social worker did not offer any recourse. 

The Justice Centre sent Child Services a letter in January 2019, explaining that Child Services “unlawfully dismissed the couple’s application, not due to any legitimate deficiency in their qualifications, but due solely to Child Services’ prejudice and bias against the religious beliefs of the [couple].”  The letter requested that Child Services reopen the couple’s application to foster and properly process their application to become foster parents in a non-discriminatory manner. Child Services eventually communicated that it would not reconsider the matter and said that its decision was final.

The couple seeks a declaration from the Court that Child Services unreasonably rejected their application to foster children, and a declaration that in rejecting the application to foster children, Child Services unreasonably impaired their freedom of religion and conscience and their freedom of thought, belief and opinion of, contrary to sections 2(a) and 2(b) of the Charter.  The couple further seeks an order directing Child Services to include the Court’s ruling on this matter in any relevant correspondence with other foster and adoption agencies.

 

Grace Chapel v. New Westminster

The Justice Centre has filed a petition with the Supreme Court of British Columbia on behalf of a local church, after the City of New Westminster cancelled the church’s booking to host a conference at the City-owned Anvil Centre.

Grace Chapel is a parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, located in downtown New Westminster. Part of Grace Chapel’s vision is to “build a multi-ethnic, diverse church where people of every nation in our community will worship God…” Grace Chapel does not have a church building of its own. Church events are held in rented spaces, including the municipally-owned and managed Anvil Centre.

As explained in a recently filed affidavit, on May 25, the City of New Westminster signed a contract with Grace Chapel to rent a portion of the Anvil Centre. The rental was for a youth conference to be held on July 21, 2018.

On June 21, 2018, a media article was published which included a picture of a poster for the conference.

That same day, Grace Chapel received an email  from Anvil Centre Director of Sales & Marketing, Heidi Hughes. Ms. Hughes stated that the Anvil Centre was reneging on the contract and cancelling the rental, on the basis that “one of [Grace Chapel’s] event speakers / facilitators, Kari Simpson…vocally represents views and a perspective that run counter to City of New Westminster and Anvil Centre booking policy.”

Ms. Hughes did not explain how or why any of the speakers at the conference caused Grace Chapel to “promote racism, hate, violence, censorship, crime or other unethical pursuits”, or how it is possible that this speaker’s “views” or “perspective” could contravene the Anvil Centre Booking Policy.

Grace Chapel’s court petition seeks to quash the City’s decision, and seeks a Court declaration that the decision to cancel Grace Chapel’s contract was procedurally unfair, biased, unreasonable, and unjustifiably infringed the freedoms of conscience, religion, thought, belief, opinion, expression, and association and right to be free from discrimination on the basis of religion as protected by sections 2(a), 2(b), 2(d) and section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This court application further seeks a Court order prohibiting the City from denying the use of its facilities to this church on the basis of the ideas, views, opinions, perspectives, values or beliefs of Grace Chapel or of speakers selected by the Grace Chapel.

In a July 6, 2018, letter to the City of New Westminster, the Justice Centre explained that the Charter protects the right to receive expressive material as much as it does the right to speak. By cancelling the rental, the Anvil Centre unjustifiably infringed the constitutional right of those intending to listen and consider diverse opinions on topics of interest to them.

Weld v. Ottawa Public Library

The Justice Centre has filed a court application against the Ottawa Public Library, on behalf of Madeline Weld and Valerie Thomas. This court application challenges the Library’s decision to cancel a private viewing of the documentary film “Killing Europe.”  This documentary discusses several social, political, and cultural topics relating to Europe. It includes footage of the documentary’s producer, Michael Hansen, interviewing various people to solicit their views and describe their experiences.

This documentary was scheduled to be screened on November 25, 2017 in the auditorium of the Library’s Main Branch, available for viewing only to those who paid for admission.  The film’s producer Michael Hansen was scheduled to give a presentation following the viewing of the film, and to take questions from the audience.

On October 27, 2017 the Ottawa Public Library informed Ms. Weld that her booking request had been “reviewed and confirmed” by library staff. Ms. Weld paid the required fee on the same day and the Library provided her with a copy of the rental contract.  On November 14, Ms. Weld received a telephone call from Catherine Seaman, Senior Manager at the Ottawa Public Library, who inquired as to whether Ms. Weld would adhere to the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Criminal Code. Ms. Weld responded that the viewing of the documentary would not violate either code.

During the same telephone call, Ms. Seaman stated that the Ottawa Public Library was “anticipating disruptions” and would therefore require Ms. Weld to pay for security, to which she agreed.

On November 24, Ottawa Public Library Chief Executive Officer Danielle McDonald emailed Ms. Weld stating that, “[a]s a result of a number of complaints that have been raised, Library staff have undertaken a further review of the presentation entitled, Killing Europe, which you have proposed to screen at the Ottawa Public Library’s Main branch tomorrow.” Ms. McDonald further stated that “it is my view that the content falls within the category of material that the Library is not prepared to have displayed or screened on its property. As a result, I must advise that the Library is immediately cancelling the booking in question.”

The Court heard oral arguments on September 11, 2019. A decision is pending. 

In a court application filed on June 11, 2018, the Applicants seek, among other things:

  • judicial review of the Ottawa Public Library’s decision to cancel the booking to view the documentary film;
  • a declaration that the Library’s decision unjustifiably violates freedom of expression as protected by section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the right to receive expressive material;
  • a declaration that the Library’s decision is unreasonable, and violates the Library’s own policies, such as its Intellectual Freedom policy;
  • a court order requiring the Library to re-book the auditorium for the viewing of the documentary.

Relevant Documents

Andersons v. Canada

The Justice Centre has filed a court application against the federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, Patty Hajdu, on behalf of a small, family owned-business providing agricultural irrigation services in southern Alberta.  Their application to provide a summer position for a student interested in water conservation or environmental sciences through the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program was rejected because they refused to comply with the new 2018 attestation, which requires applicants to express agreement with the Liberal governments’ views on abortion and sexuality.

Starting this year, charities and small businesses must express their support for abortion being legal if they wish to access a grant through the Canada Summer Jobs program, which provides federal government grants to hire summer students. Further, charities and small businesses must express agreement with the idea that abortion is a Charter right, in spite of the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in R. v. Morgentaler that Parliament can legislate to protect unborn life.

The applicants, Rhea Lynne Anderson and William Anderson, are a married couple residing near Brooks, Alberta.  The Andersons are the sole owners of A-1 Irrigation & Technical Services (“A-1”), which offers ecologically responsible irrigation services to local farming operations.

Believing that they could provide a quality summer job to a qualified student, the Andersons submitted a CSJ application on January 24, 2018.  However, the Andersons submitted their 2018 CSJ application without checking the “I attest” box, because they object to being compelled to express their agreement and respect for ideological positions as required by the new attestation requirement, which reads:

Both the job and my organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, and the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability or sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression. 

The federal government has defined “respecting” “reproductive rights” as including “the right to access safe and legal abortions”.  The 2018 CSJ Application Guide states that the federal government “recognizes” that “the right to access safe and legal abortions” is protected by the Charter and human rights legislation.

On February 9, 2018, the Andersons received the following reply from Service Canada:

The essential requirements listed below are missing from your application, and  therefore we are unable to determine your organization’s eligibility or the eligibility of the activities proposed in your application:

The signatory must check the “I attest” box to confirm eligibility and add his/her initials next to the box.

In order to determine the eligibility of your organization and its proposed activities, you must provide us with the above essential missing requirements within 10 business days following the date of this correspondence. If you fail to respond within the above specified timeframe, your application will be deemed incomplete and will therefore not be eligible for assessment. (Emphasis added)

On February 10, 2018, the Andersons responded to Service Canada, indicating that they would not be checking the “I attest” box because they viewed it as unconstitutional for the Government “to require a specific prescription of personal beliefs” to qualify for participation in a government program.

The court application seeks a declaration that the new attestation requirement violates section 2(a) and 2(b) Charter freedoms of conscience and expression.  The new attestation requirement also breaches the duty of state neutrality, because it compels the Andersons to profess their agreement with, and ostensibly adopt, specific beliefs and values in order to qualify for a government benefit to which they would otherwise be entitled.

The court application further seeks a declaration that the new attestation requirement violates section 32 of the Charter by compelling private entities to assume the legal obligations of the Charter that only the government is required to honour.

The Andersons also seek a declaration that the new attestation requirement is ultra vires the authority of the federal government, and a court order to strike the new attestation requirement and to approve their CSJ application.

As Rhea Lynne Anderson explains in her filed affidavit:

My husband and I, and our business, comply fully with human rights legislation, and with all federal, provincial and municipal laws. The New Attestation Requirement is not simply a commitment to comply with legislation, but instead asks us to agree with the government’s “values” and to be bound by the Charter as though we are government actors.

Since the February 9, 2018, deadline for applying for Canada Summer Jobs funding, numerous charities have been told, in writing, that they will not receive funding unless they check off the “I attest” box on the application, to confirm their support for legal abortion and rights based on gender identity and gender expression as a Charter rights.

On April 26, 2018 the Justice Centre filed an application on behalf of the Applicants in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. In December, 2018 the Trudeau government announced that the 2019 Canada Summer Jobs Program will require a different attestation, which means that any difficulties with the 2019 cannot be dealt with in the same case. On July 2, 2019 the Anderson’s case will be in court and the government will argue that the case should be struck. The government’s claim is that the Anderson’s case is moot because the 2018 attestation is no longer required and that the Federal Court has exclusive jurisdiction to hear a case that attacks decisions made under authority of federal legislation. The Justice Centre says that the Anderson’s case is not moot because a declaration that the Anderson’s rights were infringed by the 2018 attestation requirement remains available and the Court of Queen’s Bench has authority to give that Charter remedy.

 

Troller v. Manitoba Public Insurance

The Justice Centre is proceeding with its court application against Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) on behalf of Winnipeg resident Nicholas Troller, whose personalized Star Trek licence plate was deemed “offensive” by MPI.

Mr. Troller, an enthusiast of Star Trek, applied and paid the required fee to receive the personalized licence plate “ASIMIL8” in 2015.  MPI approved his application and issued the plate.  Mr. Troller installed the plate on his family vehicle, along with a licence plate border that stated “WE ARE THE BORG” and “RESISTANCE IS FUTILE”.  The plate and accompanying border are a reference to Star Trek.

As stated in his filed Affidavit, Mr. Troller has been approached by many people commenting positively on the plate and asking for pictures with it.  The plate was renewed by MPI in 2016 without question or concern.

On April 26, 2017, Mr. Troller received a letter from MPI informing him that the plate “is considered offensive.”  The letter does not say why the plate is considered offensive, or by whom. In its letter, MPI informed Mr. Troller that he had until May 1, 2017, to surrender his plate, and did not provide him any recourse to appeal its decision.

The Justice Centre wrote to MPI on May 29, 2017 demanding that it reinstate Mr. Troller’s licence plate no later than June 9, 2017. MPI responded on July 7, stating it was “unable to reinstate the plate as requested”.

Nicholas Troller seeks a declaration from the Court that MPI’s decision to revoke his personalized plate is a violation of his Charter-protected right to free expression. The court application further seeks reinstatement of Mr. Troller’s plate, and/or a quashing of the initial decision to revoke.

Mr. Troller has first-hand experience with the unreasoning grind of bureaucracy, noting in his Affidavit:

The irony of the rescission of my freedom of expression is not lost on me: I have been assimilated by the bureaucratic machine. The expression on the Plate has been subsumed and erased. Like the Borg, MPI is vastly more powerful than I. And like the Borg, it feels no need to explain itself to the people in its path when it suddenly reverses course.

This case was heard by the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench on April 8, 2019. A decision is pending. 

Grabher v. Nova Scotia

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF.ca) has filed a court application against the Nova Scotia Registrar of Motor Vehicles (the “Registrar”) after it refused to reinstate the personalized licence plate of Dartmouth, NS pensioner Lorne Grabher, whose surname was deemed too “socially unacceptable” for the road.

Lorne Grabher first purchased the personalized license plate as a gift for his late father in 1991.  It has since become a source of family pride, spanning three generations – Grabher’s son has the family name on his own personalized Alberta license plate.

Mr. Grabher received a letter dated December 9, 2016, from the Office of the Registrar of Motor Vehicles which stated that a complaint had been received regarding his personalized license plate. As a result of the complaint, the Registrar decided to cancel Mr. Grabher’s plate, despite acknowledging it was an explicit reference to Mr. Grabher’s surname. The reason provided for the cancellation was that the plate could be “misinterpreted” as a “socially unacceptable slogan”.

The Justice Centre wrote to the Registrar on March 31, 2017. In its letter, the Justice Centre calls out the Registrar’s decision as “discriminatory,” “arbitrary,” “unreasonable” and in violation of free expression as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It further states that the decision is “an affront to the dignity of Canadians, and particularly those Canadians who are not of Anglo-Saxon descent.” The letter advised the Registrar to reinstate the plate or face further legal action. The Registrar responded on April 6, 2017, indicating that it would not voluntarily reinstate Mr. Grabher’s plate.

On behalf of Mr. Grabher, the Justice Centre filed a Notice of Application with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court on May 11, 2017. A substantive hearing into Lorne Grabher v. Registrar of Motor Vehicles was scheduled to take place on September 5-6, 2018, but this date has been postponed due to the unavailability of expert Crown witnesses for the September hearing. The court will hear Mr.Grabher’s case on April 23-25, 2019.

 

Servatius v. School District 70 (Alberni)

In September of 2015, Candice Servatius received a letter from the principal of John Howitt Elementary School (JHES) in Port Alberni, BC, where her two children attend.  The letter informed parents that JHES would be hosting a “Traditional Nuu-chah-nulth Classroom/Student Cleansing” performed by a “Nuu-chah-nulth Member” in the school’s classrooms. The letter did not provide a date for when these cleansing rituals would take place.

The letter from the school described specific beliefs of the Nuu-chah-nulth: “everything is one, all is connected” and “everything has a spirit.”  The school’s letter described in detail how the cleansing ritual would “cleanse” the classroom of “energy” and cleanse the students’ “spirits.” The letter claimed that without cleansing, the classroom and even the furniture would harbour negative “energy” and would not be safe until the “energy” was “released.” The letter stated that each student would participate in the cleansing ritual by holding onto a cedar branch while having “smoke from Sage fanned over [their] body and spirit.”  Agree or disagree with these beliefs as you wish, but there is no denying that these aboriginal teachings are as “religious” as any that might be found in the Bible or Koran.

Concerned about the explicitly religious nature of the cleansing ritual, Mrs. Servatius went to the school to learn more.  She was shocked to find out that this “cleansing ritual” had already been imposed on her children.

Her daughter explained that she had been coerced by the teacher to participate in the cleansing ritual. When Mrs. Servatius’ daughter expressed to her teacher that she did not want to participate, the teacher told Mrs. Servatius’ daughter that it would be “rude” not to participate in the religious ritual and that “all” the students were “required” to participate.

In January of 2016, Mrs. Servatius learned from her children that a prayer based on Aboriginal spirituality had been performed at a JHES student assembly, with explicit references to an unspecified “god”.  JHES did not notify parents.

School District 70 denies that these religious ceremonies and prayers are violating the religious freedom of Mrs. Servatius and her children, and claims that these are merely “cultural”.

The School District’s claim that these are cultural practices is true, but misses the point. There is a world of difference between teaching children about Islam, and requiring children to kneel on prayer rugs in the direction of Mecca and say a prayer to Allah.  In similar fashion, students can benefit from learning about aboriginal religious beliefs without being coerced to participate in religious rituals and ceremonies.

The fact that a religious ritual like smudging might also be “cultural” is irrelevant to whether religious freedom has been violated, according to the Supreme Court of Canada.  In Mouvement laique quebecois v. City of Saguenay, the court ruled that “the state must neither encourage nor discourage any form of religious conviction whatsoever.  If the state adheres to a form of religious expression under the guise of cultural or historical reality or heritage, it breaches its duty of neutrality.”

In Saguenay, an atheist adult won the right to be spared the indignity of being present while City Councillors said a non-denominational prayer that was opened and concluded with the words “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”  He was not required to participate in the prayer, unlike Mrs. Servatius’ children, one of whom was told by her teacher that it would be “rude” to refuse the “cleansing” of her “spirit” by Sage smoke.

The Saguenay ruling rejected a compromise policy to have the atheist leave the Council Chambers during the prayer, because this exacerbates discrimination: “If he chose to exclude himself from the prayer either by refusing to participate in it or by leaving the chamber, he would be forced to reveal that he is a non-believer… Such interference constitutes an infringement of the complainant’s freedom of conscience and religion.”

In spite of the cultural benefits that might flow from having children say the Lord’s Prayer in schools, courts have interpreted the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as including a right to be “free from” religion.  That means not coercing children or adults to participate in any religious prayer, ritual, ceremony or practice.

The violation of religious freedom through the imposition of prayer on children in the classroom cannot be avoided by providing exemptions to excuse some children from participation.  The Ontario Court of Appeal in 1988 ruled in Zylberberg v. Sudbury Board of Education that mandated religious practices violate the religious freedom of students and parents, even if students have the right to be exempted from participating in the religious practice.  The court ruled that “Peer pressures, and the desire to conform, are notoriously effective with children. Does common experience not tell us that these things are so, and that such feelings might easily, and reasonably, lead some not to seek exemption, and unwillingly conform, or others to seek it, and be forced to suffer the consequences to their feelings and convictions? … The peer pressure and the class-room norms to which children are acutely sensitive, in our opinion, are real and pervasive … Thus the excusal provision in its operation subjects [non-conforming children] to a cruel dilemma.  In consequence, even devout children may well avoid claiming their right and simply continue to participate in exercises distasteful to them because of an understandable reluctance to be stigmatized as atheists or nonconformists simply on the basis of their request. …  children are disinclined at this age to step out of line or to flout “peer-group norms”. … The requirement that pupils attend religious exercises, unless exempt, compels students and parents to make a religious statement. … the exemption provision imposes a penalty on pupils from religious minorities who utilize it by stigmatizing them as non-conformists and setting them apart from their fellow students … the conclusion is inescapable that the exemption provision fails to mitigate the infringement of freedom of conscience and religion.”

In November of 2016, the Justice Centre filed a Petition with the BC Supreme Court in Nanaimo, BC.  Mrs. Servatius seeks a declaration that the actions of School District 70 in forcing her children to participate in a cleansing ritual and be subject to religious prayer have violated her and her children’s religious freedom.

The School District argues that children benefit from learning about aboriginal cultures, including aboriginal religions.  Yes, and one can teach kids about aboriginal religious beliefs without hosting religious rituals and ceremonies in the classroom.

The hearing, scheduled to commence January 22, 2019, has been adjourned until further notice.

UAlberta Pro-Life v. University of Alberta

On January 11, 2016, UAlberta Pro-Life applied for University authorization to set up a stationary educational display on campus on February 23 and 24, 2016.  On February 12, only eleven days prior to the scheduled event, the University of Alberta notified the students that they would need to pay $17,500 in “security fees” to proceed with their peaceful educational display.  In its communication, the University demanded that pro-life students pay for the wages of security guards and police, and costs of barricading the venue, and pay for the potential misconduct of people who would violate the University’s Code of Student Behaviour by obstructing and disrupting the display.  Unable to pay $17,500, UAlberta Pro-Life was forced to cancel its planned event in February 2016.

In March of 2015, UAlberta Pro-Life held a similar event, which (then) President Indira Samarasekera supported through a public statement that the University must facilitate and protect the peaceful expression of all views, regardless of popularity.  In defiance of the President’s clear statement about free expression and the rule of law, a student-led mob blockaded and obstructed the club’s display, in violation of the Code of Student Behaviour.  Although the University had advance notice that a mob was being organized to obstruct the display, and although Dr. Samarasekera had warned that any misbehaviour would be investigated and prosecuted, the University of Alberta Protective Services (UAPS) did nothing to stop the blockade of the club’s display.  UAPS did not photograph or seek to identify any blockading student, even though the Code clearly prohibits students from disrupting or obstructing University-related functions.

On March 11, 2015, UAlberta Pro-Life filed a formal complaint with UAPS against the disruptive students pursuant to the Code of Student Behaviour. It took UAPS over eight months to release a decision in regard to the complaint.  In its November 30, 2015 decision, UAPS confirmed that the University would neither charge nor prosecute the students who disrupted, blocked and obstructed the March 2015 display on campus.

On December 18, 2015, the Justice Centre wrote to the University of Alberta Office of Student Conduct and Accountability to appeal the UAPS Decision. On February 4, 2016, the Office of Student Conduct and Accountability dismissed the appeal.

In its court application, UAlberta Pro-Life seeks a declaration that the decision made by the University of Alberta to impose a $17,500 security fee on the club is illegal and unjustifiably infringes the fundamental Canadian value of freedom of expression, also protected by section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  The court application further seeks to prohibit the University from imposing a financial burden on the students as a condition for the exercise of their freedom of speech.

This court application also seeks a declaration that the decision made by the University of Alberta to condone the conduct of students who disrupted and blockaded the University-authorized campus event of UAlberta Pro-Life in March of 2015, is unreasonable and therefore illegal.

This case was heard by the Court of Queen’s Bench on June 8 and 9, 2017. On October 11, 2017, the Court upheld the decision of the University of Alberta to impose the $17,500 “security fee” as a condition for the campus club UAlberta Pro-Life to set up a stationary display on campus. The judge further upheld the University’s decision to condone violations of the Code of Student Behaviour directed against the pro-life club in March 2015.

On October 12, 2017, UAlberta Pro-Life announced it would appeal the Court’s ruling, with a hearing date scheduled for November 28, 2018. The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) was awarded leave to intervene on October 29, 2018. The Court of Appeal heard arguments on November 28, in Edmonton. The Court has reserved its decision until a later date.