FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 18, 2008
A VICTORY FOR LGBT HUMAN RIGHTS OR A RACE TO THE SUPREME COURT?
EGALE CANADA FILES TO INTERVENE IN CHRISTIAN HORIZONS’ APPEAL
TORONTO: Egale Canada has filed a motion with the Ontario Divisional Court to intervene in the appeal of the Human Right’s Tribunal ruling in the case of Connie Heintz versus her employer Christian Horizons. In April, the Tribunal found that the evangelical Horizons discriminated against Heintz because she is a lesbian.
Horizons, the evangelical Christian ministry, is the largest, publicly funded provider of community living services in Ontario, serving 1,400 developmentally disabled individuals in over 180 residential homes and is appealing the Tribunal’s ruling.
As part of their terms of employment, Christian Horizons requires employees to sign a Lifestyle and Morality statement, which prohibits homosexual relationships as “unnatural,” “immoral,” and “contrary to the scriptures.” After being confronted by her employers regarding her sexual orientation, Heintz found her work environment increasingly hostile and was forced to leave. She filed a complaint against her employer with the Tribunal, which ruled that the way she was treated constitutes discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
“A religious employer’s right to freedom of association does not trump an individual’s right to equal treatment in employment,” said Hilary Cook, chair of Egale’s Legal Issues Committee. “Equality is a competing legal right, and not one that is inferior to the rights of a religious group.”
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, and the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops are all seeking to obtain intervener status in support of Christian Horizons against Heintz and the findings of the Tribunal. They argue that the “special employment” provisions of section 24(1)(a) of the Human Rights Code permits certain organizations to restrict hiring or give preference in employment to persons identified by one of the proscribed grounds of discrimination.
Cynthia Petersen of Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP will represent Egale in this case.
Egale Canada is Canada’s LGBT human rights organization: advancing equality, diversity, education and justice.
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For more information: Helen Kennedy, 416-270-1999