Religious discrimination complaint dismissed

Case before the Human Rights Tribunal involved four Catholic kids in foster care, with allegations they were 'treated as Mennonites.'

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has dismissed a complaint from two parents who alleged their four children were discriminated against, on a religious basis, while they were in foster care.

The parents claimed that the kids, who were raised as Catholics, were treated as Mennonites while in care.

They cannot be named due to a publication ban that protects the identity of the children.

The couple alleged that their children were forced to wear Mennonite clothing and “pray in the Mennonite way”; were told that non-Mennonite religions were evil and all non-believers would go to hell; were not allowed to participate in a midnight mass; and were forced to attend Mennonite services.

The complaint also asserted that religious crosses belonging to two of the kids were taken away and not returned.

In his reasons for decision, tribunal member Murray Geiger-Adams stated that the foster parent was able to refute each claim and provide context for each issue.

For example, she denied ever saying that other religions were evil.

“She says that many of her family members are Catholics, that she respects their beliefs, and that she participates in their religious services when she visits them,” Geiger-Adams stated.

The foster parent had signed an agreement, through the Ministry of Children and Family Development, that she not pressure the kids to embrace her Mennonite beliefs and that she respect their right to participate in the religious activities of their choice.

Affidavits from social workers stated that although the foster parent was open about her Mennonite beliefs, “she was also respectful of their beliefs,” the tribunal documents state.

Geiger-Adams said the parents’ allegations involved second-hand reports, “devoid of context,” that were filed months after the children’s placement ended in the foster home.

On the other hand, the respondents – the foster parent and the ministry – had filed “detailed and mutually consistent” affidavits that offered plausible explanations for the allegations, he added.

Geiger-Adams dismissed the complaint, saying the parents “have no reasonable prospect of establishing, on a balance of probabilities at a hearing, the essential facts underlying their complaint.”

He also denied the respondents’ application to have costs awarded, saying that the parents had not filed the complaint in bad faith or to be deceitful.