When two rights collide, who’s wrong? – The Globe and Mail

Good commentary by Leah Eichler on the issues raised by the York U controversy from the perspective of the some private sector diversity advisers. Much more common sense than from York U admin or  lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos’ It’s not about sex — it’s about the law – New Canadian Media – NCM:

Natalie MacDonald, a founding partner at Rudner MacDonald, a boutique law firm in Toronto specializing in employment law, said the York student’s request for accommodation under the guise of religion marginalizes and perpetuates discrimination against women, setting gender equality back several years.

“I know of no religion that could possibly legitimize such a request that would preclude a male student from working with female students in a group setting. And, if there were such a religion, the fact that it would marginalize women, and perpetuate discriminatory conduct against them, should be sufficient to deny the request,” she said.

Ms. MacDonald added that she finds it “disturbing that this kind of discriminatory request could have been made in Canada in 2014, let alone granted by the head of an institution of higher learning.”

The incident at York should become a cautionary tale, not a professional precedent. I’m an ardent advocate for religious freedoms. But if religious or cultural beliefs in any way reverse the gains earned by the women’s rights movement, count me out.

When two rights collide, who’s wrong? – The Globe and Mail.

York U Accommodation Contrary View – It’s not about sex — it’s about the law – And other commentary

The contrary view about York U and the accommodation request to be exempt from working in a mixed gender group. Lawyers (like policy analysts!) can argue anything. Reasonable accommodation requires requests to be considered but not automatically granted. Weaknesses in Albertos Polizogopoulos’ argument include:

  1. No threat to women’s equality rights: Perhaps not materially on an individual level – they can still do the course work – but certainly symbolically.
  2. Impact of the human rights of others: There is an impact in the implicit implication of the request that there would need to be a male-only work group. This impacts on both the women in the course and the men, as it would reduce the pool of men for mixed work groups (75 percent of sociology students are female in Professor Grayson’s course at York), with increased gender segregation as a result.
  3. While an exemption would have less direct impact, apart from the normal questioning why someone appears to be getting off lightly, particularly in the case of the particular student who, if accounts are correct, is enrolled in other in-person courses with both male and female students.
  4. Would Polizogopoulos argue similarly if a student, of either gender, request an accommodation to avoid being in a group with gays? With people of another faith? From another ethnic community?

And stepping beyond accommodation, the broader question of integration, and what it means to live in and participate in an integrated society, where discrimination among and between groups is discouraged (and illegal), remains. Multiculturalism and reasonable accommodation were never about “anything goes”; positions like Polizogopoulos’ undermine the case-by-case approach by forgetting the reasonable element of reasonable accommodation.

It’s not about sex — it’s about the law – New Canadian Media – NCM.

Some further commentary. starting with Maclean’s Thanks to York U’s absurd policy, Canadians know where the line is drawn on human rights:

While it apparently remains official policy at York to indulge every request for special religious treatment regardless of implication or precedent, such blind adherence to patently absurd policy may ultimately prove to be a good thing. The massive publicity given this story—it dominated national news media and online forums and has been reported everywhere from Europe to Japan to Australia—and the universal disapproval of York’s administrative position may serve as a wake-up call for Canadians, highlighting the extent to which the bureaucratic concept of human rights has lost contact with common sense.

Brian Lilley in The Sun, while usefully identifying some examples where accommodation has gone too far, takes it over the top with a colonial reference in Get a backbone, Canada: The country needs to regain its cultural confidence:

Canada, and the western world in general, needs to find its backbone, it needs to regain its cultural confidence that stood for basic rights for all.

In the 1840s, when Sir Charles Napier was governing a large part of India, he is said to have witnessed an attempt to practice suttee, the burning of a widow on her husband’s funeral pyre. His response could instruct us today in standing up for our principles.

“You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them.

“Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”

We need to find that backbone again before Canada is no longer recognizable.

Lastly, the questionnaire and responses by Professor Grayson’s students on the requested accommodation and approach, where students were divided in their response (bit.ly/1dyPJCj or Organizations and Human Rights):

It is clear from the foregoing analysis that students in Sociology 3480 are divided on the accommodation requested by the male student in the scenario presented. Some see the request as consistent with the student’s religious rights.  While others acknowledge religious rights, they also believe that the exercise of the male’s religious rights conflicts with the rights of females in the class. A number of females in this latter group clearly articulated that were a similar accommodation granted in their class they would be outraged, feel that they were victims of discrimination, and some would take action to rectify the situation.