Require religious schools to uphold human rights

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We believe British Columbians should never be asked by an employer to forfeit their human rights. This is why we have a human rights code. Yet there are discriminatory “community standards” policies at many religious k-12 schools across BC. Nestled into employment contracts, these policies are invasive and require teachers to abstain from behavior such as “any sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage.” Many religious non-profit schools depend on an interpretation of section 41 of the Human Rights Code to defend such language and have managed for years with a complete exemption to give preference in any way that supports their stated values.

We disagree. We believe such policies unnecessarily discriminate against employees in ways unrelated to a religious school’s primary purpose. These schools discriminate according to sexual orientation and marital status. They do it clearly, boldly, and in writing. Most of them are also funded by the BC government, up to 50%. There are likely dozens of schools with some version of this contract. These discriminatory policies cannot be defended with language about religious “values, beliefs, and traditions” because the Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled that it is "proportionate and reasonable" to limit religious rights in order to protect human rights. This ruling was meant to protect LGBTQ students. We hope to protect teachers as well.

Bad policy harms good people and good teachers, like Stephanie Vande Kraats.

Stephanie immigrated to Canada in 2003 in order to accept a job teaching at a Christian school in Surrey, BC. She loved her students, trusted her colleagues, and found her home in the community. Stephanie valued her job, and as a master’s level educator, felt valued by administrators. This changed after her marriage ended.

In 2017, Stephanie was forced to resign because administrators felt she had broken the school’s “community standards” by living common law with her new partner. Stephanie stood to lose her job because she was not ready to have a wedding. The months and meetings that unfolded were a haze of humiliation and upset for her. One administrator suggested that she would have been “fired on the spot” in some other Christian schools, but he would allow her to complete the school year. Stephanie chose to maintain dignity and resigned midyear, yet understood the need to exit quietly, to ensure fair references and continue as an educator. The months that followed included a period of unemployment—difficult for a mother of two. She lost her entire community—religious, professional, and personal—all at once.

Now she is speaking out for change.

We feel it’s the right moment for change. In British Columbia, we anticipate the arrival of a new Human Rights Commission in 2019. It will be the Commissioner’s job to examine discrimination in the province. We ask that the Commissioner act—request copies of all teacher contracts from religious K-12 schools, review them, and if necessary, recommend a legislative solution. We ask the commissioner to please require religious schools to uphold human rights. And we hope this petition is the first thing on his/her desk!

Friends, we can’t eliminate discrimination everywhere, but we can remove it from professional teaching contracts. This is entirely doable.

We appreciate your support.                   

-Stephanie Vande Kraats & friends

 

**We do not support hate mail or contact with any individual schools. That's not the way. We’re better than that. Thanks!**