When Rights Conflict: Religious Belief vs. Equality

Nov 1, 2016

The Toronto Star recently reported that a Toronto Police Service Chaplin stated online that “a woman should be ‘obedient’ to her husband at all times and must not refrain from intimacy without a ‘valid excuse.’”

Once again, it appears that religious rights and women’s rights are in conflict in Ontario.

The Law

Ontarians are protected by the Human Rights Code. They should not face discrimination or harassment at work due to their religious belief or their gender.

The Toronto Police Service is also a service provider and therefore has an obligation to the public not to discriminate based on gender.

Conflicting Laws

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario states that there is no hierarchy of rights. If they appear to be in conflict, the Tribunal will determine:

  • whether the situation involves legitimate rights;
  • how significant the interference with a right is; and
  • whether there are solutions to protect both rights – or come close.

What Will They Do?

At this point, it is unknown whether any rights are actually in conflict. No one has reported that the Chaplin has made discriminatory comments in the workplace or to the public in his role with the Toronto Police. If he has not, then there is not a true conflict. To terminate or discipline the Police Chaplin due to his religious beliefs would be a breach of his human rights.

However, given the prominence of gender-based discrimination in police services, the Toronto Police are likely to investigate the allegations raised by the Toronto Star. Further, the situation is another example of how out-of-work conduct, especially on social media, may lead to consequences in the workplace.

This situation demonstrates that employers and service providers faced with a potential competing rights scenario, are often in a no-win position. Inevitably, there are critics on both sides of the issue who believe one group’s rights trump the other.

If you have experienced mistreatment on the basis of your age, race, religious views, gender, sexual orientation or any other ground, you should speak to a lawyer. If you would like to speak to a lawyer at MacLeod Law Firm, you can reach us at [email protected] or 647-204-8107.

The material and information in this blog and this website are for general information only. They should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. The authors make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of any information referred to in this blog or its links. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found on this website or blog. Readers should obtain appropriate professional advice from a lawyer duly licensed in the relevant jurisdiction. These materials do not create a lawyer-client relationship between you and any of the authors or the MacLeod Law Firm.

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