White Rock Pride Society president Ernie Klassen speaks to guests at the flag raising ceremony in 2019. (File photo)

White Rock Pride Society president Ernie Klassen speaks to guests at the flag raising ceremony in 2019. (File photo)

White Rock Pride Society discrimination case against B.C. church now includes 5 intervenors

Canadian Secular Alliance allowed to file written submissions

The BC Human Rights Tribunal has allowed a total of five intervenors to participate in a discrimination case between the White Rock Pride Society and the Star of the Sea Roman Parish.

On Nov. 25, the Tribunal released a decision made by Tribunal member Kathleen Smith to allow the Canadian Secular Alliance (CSA) to file a written submission regarding the application of the test for bona fide reasonable justification (BFRJ).

A BFRJ is a defence under the human rights code. If a complainant proves their case, a respondent must prove they acted for a reason related to their business; they acted honestly and did not mean to discriminate; and they took all reasonable steps to avoid any harmful effect on the complainant.

The approval of the intervenor status brings the total intervenors in the case to five, including the BC Humanist Association, Canadian Centre for Christian Charities, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, and the Christian Legal Fellowship.

RELATED: White Rock Pride Society files human rights complaint against Star of the Sea Church

According to the Tribunal, a legal test to participate as an intervenor includes that the person or group would be affected by an order sought by the Human Rights Code or the person or group will help the Tribunal make its decision, and will not harm the other parties.

An intervenor may help the Tribunal by telling it the social or historical context of the complaint; other groups’ views about the complaint; argument about how to interpret the Human Rights Code; and how a remedy might affect others.

All five intervenors in this case are permitted to file written submissions of a maximum of 10 pages. No intervenor can participate in procedural matters before the Tribunal without leave. The scope of the permission submissions is also limited.

While the Pride Society agreed to the intervention submission by the CSA, the parish opposed it. The Parish’s augments include that the proposed submissions on behalf of CSA are “irrelevant” and would unnecessarily broaden and confusethe scope of the hearing, the decision said.

The CSA describes itself as a national not-for-profit organization with the mandate of advancing the separation of religion and state.

With respect to the case, the CSA said that it “has a genuine interest in ensuring that religious actors do not receive any special treatment or preference under law, including when the BFRJ test is applied to them.”

A Tribunal hearing on the case is scheduled to begin this January.

RELATED: Human Rights Tribunal denies church’s request to toss out White Rock Pride Society’s complaint

White Rock Pride Society filed a complaint with the Tribunal in summer of 2019. The Society alleged discrimination by Star of the Sea Parish on the basis of sexual orientation.

In April of that year, society president Ernie Klassen told Peace Arch News that his organization felt discriminated against because Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Parish would not rent its community centre to the society for a ‘Love is Love’ event.

“The parish reviews all applications for events to ensure that the proposed use of the parish center would not be contrary to the teachings on faith and morals of the Catholic Church. We regret that this will inevitably disappoint some people and we strive to give answers in as timely a fashion as possible,” a statement from Archbishop delegate James Borkowski read.

The Pride Society is seeking a declaration from the Tribunal that Star of the Sea’s conduct “was discriminatory and without bona fide and reasonable justification.”

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