Human Rights Office

Human Rights Office
Human Rights Office

Paquette v. Amaruk Wilderness Corp. and Christopher Fragassi-Bjornsen, 2016 BCHRT 35 (CanLII)

Summary:

In the summer of 2014 Bethany Paquette applied for an Assistant Guide Internship with Amaruk Wilderness Corp. Ms. Paquette had previous experience working in this area and in particular, had previously worked as a raft guide. From 2009-2014 Ms. Paquette attended Trinity Western University (TWU). While at TWU Ms. Paquette completed a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology. As part of her time at TWU, Ms. Paquette signed a “Community Covenant”. This “Community Covenant” was essentially a student code of conduct that reflected TWU’s evangelical Christian views. Shortly after applying to work for Amaruk Wilderness Corp., Ms. Paquette received an email from an employee at the company stating that not only did she not meet the minimum requirements for this position, but that she would not be a suitable candidate for the position because of her Christian views (para 35). After having received this email Ms. Paquette responded via email, defending her Christian views (para 36). After Ms. Paquette’s response email she received two further emails from Amaruk Wilderness Corp. In both of these emails further attacks on her education, views on homosexuality and Christianity were lobbied. Ms. Paquette did not respond to these later emails (para 37 and 43). Ultimately, Ms. Paquette was not interviewed for the Assistant Guide Internship position. In this case Ms. Paquette alleged discrimination on the basis of ancestry, religion and political belief. It was found, that “the respondents’ perception of Ms. Paquette’s religious beliefs were a factor in their decision not to hire her to an internship” (para 86). Ms. Paquette established a prima facie case of discrimination in relation to religion that the respondents failed to rebut. In relation to the other grounds, ancestry and political belief, a prima facie case of discrimination was not established.

Question to be Determined:

1. Did the respondents, Amaruk Wilderness Corp. and Christopher Fragassi-Bjornsen, discriminate against the complainant, Bethany Paquette, in the area of employment on the basis of ancestry, religion and political belief, contrary to s. 13 of the Human Rights Code?

Findings:

1. Did the respondents, Amaruk Wilderness Corp. and Christopher Fragassi-Bjornsen, discriminate against the complainant, Bethay Paquette, in the area of employment on the basis of ancestry, religion and political belief, contrary to s. 13 of the Human Rights Code?

YES

(But only in relation to religion. In this case, it was not found that the complainant experienced discrimination on the bases of ancestry or political belief)

Reasoning:

1. In this case it was determined that the respondents, Amaruk Wilderness Corp. and Christopher Fragassi-Bjornsen discriminated against Ms. Paquette on the basis of religion in the area of employment. Looking at the email correspondence between the respondents and Ms. Paquette it was stated that,

The second [email], however, makes a point of taking issue with the principles embraced by TWU and with Christianity on a broad brush basis, which implies that Ms. Paquette’s religious beliefs were a factor in rejecting her employment application. The e-mails following Ms. Paquette’s response of September 13 clearly connect those comments by Mr. Amundsen on September the 11th with Amaruk’s decision to reject Ms. Paquette’s application and expressly confirm that religion was a factor that was considered. Mr. Amundsen on September 14th states:

…This is precisely because we cannot tolerate discrimination, or intolerance, that graduates from Trinity Western University are not welcome in our (Norwegian) company…..(para 68).

Confirming this statement it was said that “both Amaruk, through its employee’s actions, and Mr. Fragassi-Bjornsen have discriminated against Ms. Paquette on the ground of religion by harassing her for her presumed religious beliefs and declining to accept her application for an internship, in part because of those beliefs” (para 88).

In relation to the allegation of discrimination on the basis of political belief it was stated that “while, in my view, it is probable that the sentiments espoused in the Respondents’     emails quality as an attack on Ms. Paquette’s political beliefs, it is not necessary for me to decide that and I decline to do so, particularly in a case where no argument to the contrary has been provided to me” (para 75).

In relation to the allegation of discrimination on the basis of ancestry it was stated that, Ms. Paquette relies upon Mr. Amundsen’s comment on September 14, 2014 that “people who did not agree with your church would be flayed, burnt, roasted, quartered,etc....so you guys have a long history of intolerance. …” I’m not satisfied that this comment was meant to be discriminatory of Ms. Paquette on the basis of her ancestry. Neither do I think it has this effect. Rather, I see this paragraph as a general statement of the historical practice of Ms. Paquette’s religion based upon Mr. Amundsen’s assumptions of Ms. Paquette’s religious beliefs (para 76).

After reviewing previous Tribunal decisions, it was stated that “historical religious practices or one’s religious background do not fall within the rubric of ancestry” (para 77).

Remedy:

I find that the Respondents have violated the provisions of s. 13 of the Code and order that they jointly and severally:

            a. Cease to contravene the Code and refrain from committing the same or similar contraventions;

            b. Pay to Ms. Paquette the sum of $8,500 for injury to dignity and self-respect;

            c. Pay to Ms. Paquette the sum of $661.08 for reimbursement of expenses incurred in this proceeding; and

            d. Pay to Ms. Paquette post-judgement interest on the aforesaid sum.