• Index • The Dhillen Case • The Pannu Case • The Nijjar Case • The O'Malley Case • The Roosma Case • The Moore Case • The Kurvits Case • The Schroen Case • The Caldwell Case • The Fancy Case • The Brockie Case • The Ross Case • The Trinity Case • Resources • Printer Friendly Version •
In December 1993, a group of parents
filed a complaint of religious discrimination against the
Saskatchewan Board of Education. They claimed that the Board's
policy and practice respecting the recitation of Lord's Prayer and
Biblical Passages discriminated against non Christian students, and
therefore violated sections 4 and 13 of Saskatchewan Human Rights
Code. The Board's position was that this form of religious
discrimination was constitutionally excused by s. 137 of the 1901
School Ordinance, which allows public schools to provide
religious instruction in the last half hour of the school day, with
the exception of the Lord's Prayer, which may be used to open the
school day if so directed by the Board. However, according to Board
policy and student testimony, the Lord's Prayer was often used to
open school assemblies that did not occur at the beginning of the
school day; and Biblical readings were often used at times other
than the last half hour of school. The Board of Education
argued that the Board of Inquiry had no jurisdiction to hear this
case, by referring to a precedent set in Cooper v. Canada (1996)
where the Supreme Court ruled that the Canadian Human Rights
Commission could not rule on the discriminatory nature of its own
v Saskatoon School Div. No 13 (1999), 35 C.H.R.R. D/9).
Did the Board of Inquiry have the
jurisdiction to hear this case?
Did the recitation of the Lord's
Prayer and Biblical passage constitute discrimination ?
Was the Board of Education
constitutionally excused from the alleged discrimination ?
In Cooper v. Canada (1996), the
Supreme Court ruled that a Human Rights Commission was not
authorized to establish the discriminatory nature of the very
Act under which it operated. Unlike that case, in Fancy v.
Saskatoon School Division (1999), the Board of Inquiry was not
questioning the validity of provisions from the Saskatchewan
Human Rights Code, but rather was simply testing whether the
Saskatchewan Act provides an exemption from the Code. Comparing
Cooper to Fancy was like comparing apples to oranges. There was
no analogical connection between the two.
Reciting the Lord's Prayer and
Biblical passages is discriminatory because it privileges the
majority of students, who are Christian, while alienating the minority, who are not Christian.
The Board of Education would have
been constitutionally excused if it had acted in strict
accordance with the Ordinance Act, by directing schools to open
the school day with the Lord's Prayer and by restricting
Biblical readings to the last half hour of the day.
Instead of giving direction, however, the Board delegated its
constitutional authority to unelected staff who were advised
that the Lord's Prayer could be recited both in the classroom
(at the beginning of the day) and in the assembly (later in the
day) and that the Bible could be cited at the beginning of the
day. In doing so, it had committed three constitutional
infractions 1) failure to give direction 2) sanctioning the
Lord's Prayer at assemblies other than at the beginning of the
day 3) sanctioning Biblical Readings in the classroom other than
at the end of the day.
Further information on
Provision of Services:
Policy on Creed and the Accommodation of Religious Observances, s.1