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Paul Grayson, professor of Sociology at York University: ‘York University has been widely criticized for the way it handled a male student’s request for a religious accommodation so that he would not be required to interact with female students in his class. I denied the request because it infringed upon women’s right to be treated with respect and as equals.’ (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)
Paul Grayson, professor of Sociology at York University: ‘York University has been widely criticized for the way it handled a male student’s request for a religious accommodation so that he would not be required to interact with female students in his class. I denied the request because it infringed upon women’s right to be treated with respect and as equals.’ (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)

Jan. 17: It’s all about rights, but whose? – and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Rights, but whose?

Re My Quarrel’s Not With York, But Ontario’s Rights Code (Jan. 16): Prof. Paul Grayson used his position of power to impose his beliefs on a student. This is exactly the situation human rights regulations are meant to address.

In the name of religious freedom, we tolerate the Catholic Church’s male-only priesthood – a huge affront to women’s rights. How can we then say this student’s request was unacceptable?

If we really want to tackle women’s rights in a religious context, we shouldn’t start with the weak and marginalized but instead with the strong and tax-exempt.

Howard Loewen, Winnipeg

.........

I was outraged, but not surprised by the recommendation made by the human rights bureaucrats in support of the student’s request. This unelected group of people is making decisions that are slowly encroaching on women’s rights and changing the very fabric of our secular democratic system on a case-by-case basis. It will undoubtedly not be long before other cases come forward requesting similar exceptions be made.

Females represent the majority student population in Canadian universities. As publicly funded institutions, universities are responsible for protecting the rights of women against the abuses and practices of individuals and/or groups.

York is no exception.

Helen Brent, Toronto

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I’d like to stand up for human rights bureaucrats, having once been one. I’d have agreed with Paul Grayson and worked with the student to get the same result.

The law requires two questions to be analyzed before a decision on an “accommodation to the point of undue hardship” is permitted. The request must be “bona fide,” meaning the religious, gender-based, ability-based request must be real, not imagined. (I have dealt with requests to not sit near black people because their hair products aggravate allergies. Many products affect allergies, not just those worn by black people. This request is not bona fide and must be denied.) Dr. Grayson correctly challenged the bona fides of the request and determined it wasn’t real.

The rule for which accommodation is required must also be bona fide. Where the rule is a bona fide requirement, the accommodation doesn’t need to be made if it would cause undue hardship. A rule that public institutions require genders to work together in groups is bona fide; an accommodation to permit otherwise creates undue hardship in that it undermines the very heart of a secular educational environment.

The Human Rights Code is not the problem. Lazy and over-conservative thinking by nervous administrators is the problem. They threaten, through bending over backward, to undermine human rights protection altogether.

Melinda Munro, Windsor, Ont.

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How does a student’s request to be excused from working with women indicate gender inequality? He simply issued a request he felt aligned him with his faith, and when it was denied, he co-operated. He didn’t try to force his views upon anyone, so there’s no reason to make a big deal out of it. I wonder what the situation would be if a female had issued a similar request regarding males.

The beauty of Canada is freedom of conscience. While his view may be a little extreme, for my part, as a practising Ahmadi Muslim born in Canada, it’s good to see there are people so devoted to their beliefs in an age of dwindling faith.

Raza Shah, Saskatoon

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Grounded logic

Re Agency To ‘Get To The Bottom’ Of Pearson Shutdown (Jan. 16): So the Greater Toronto Airports Authority will appoint a special committee to investigate itself. How clubby.

A little more focus on operating an airport, as opposed to an “economic engine,” might be in order. Toronto already has enough shopping malls.

Ian MacDonald, Richmond, B.C.

.........

Oil-sands ‘facts’

Re More Oil-Sands Facts, Less Rock-Star Rhetoric (Jan. 16): Dave Collyer, the president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, makes a logical argument that when it comes to the oil sands “we need a broad understanding of the balanced suite of facts.”

Economic benefits ought to be considered. So, too, should ongoing environmental impacts. As it stands, we do not have a “balanced suite of facts.”

We must call for the intensification of the science surrounding oil sands extraction, so we may have prosperity without unintended or unknown adverse impact. Canadians need to know all the facts.

John Heil, Hamilton

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Neil Young is only expressing what many others feel, but if we speak our minds, we don’t get the media coverage his celebrity status garners.

Considering how much money the oil industry spends to self-promote, environmentalists should gladly accept any media coverage a celebrity can generate.

Robert Murch, Kelowna, B.C.

.........

Icy reception

Re Mayor Rob Ford ‘Disappointed’ By Wynne’s Rebuff On Ice-storm Meeting Request (Jan. 15): Toronto voters should be so thankful to Premier Kathleen Wynne for deciding to work “with the City of Toronto in the way that Toronto City Council has indicated that they would prefer.”

It seems fully in character for a former minister in the McGuinty government to disregard the voters of Toronto and give them the kind of mayor they should’ve elected in the first place.

Horst Kuehn, London, Ont.

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Heritage killer

Re Shelved Libraries (letters, Jan. 16): Terry Smythe writes that “The content of a library is infinitely more important than its physical presence.” This couldn’t be more wrong.

We’re talking about archival libraries, where printouts and handwritten materials are major components. Anyone in book studies (fast becoming a major field in these digital times) would tell him that the material fabric of a document constitutes priceless historical information: documents with near-invisible corrections and alterations, second pages accidentally detached that turn up elsewhere (I have run into this), a document on paper that was produced later than the date on the document – it’s all prime artefactual evidence, and can be of forensic utility, too.

Letter writer Michael Chadwick had it exactly right: “Paper and books are the bony parts of society that will remain decipherable for millenniums.”

Digitization is a good thing, but the bony parts are the anatomy of our documentary heritage.

As Duddy Kravitz always said, “Anatomy’s the big killer” – and he didn’t mean you could get away without it.

Germaine Warkentin, Toronto

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Bank on a miracle

Re Toronto Cardinal Among Those Named By Pope Francis To Reform Vatican Bank (Jan. 15): And for his next miracle, maybe Pope Francis could go to America and fix Wall Street.

Patricia Bruckman, Tecumseh, Ont.

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