A Trinity Western University graduate says she was “attacked” over her religion by a Norwegian wilderness tourism company, just for applying for a job.
Bethany Paquette claims her application to work in Canada's North for Amaruk Wilderness Corp. was rejected because she's Christian.
"It did really hurt me and I did feel really attacked on the basis that I'm a Christian," Paquette said.
In her complaint to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, Paquette outlines a series of emails from executives from Amaruk Wilderness Corp.
Paquette, an experienced river rafting guide, applied to be a wilderness guide for Amaruk’s Canadian operations in the North.
'It did really hurt me and I did feel really attacked on the basis that I'm a Christian' - Bethany Paquette, rejected job applicant
She says she was shocked when she read the rejection email from Olaf Amundsen, the company's hiring manager.
He wrote that she wasn't qualified and "unlike Trinity Western University, we embrace diversity, and the right of people to sleep with or marry whoever they want."
Trinity Western is the Christian university in Langley, B.C., where Paquette earned her biology degree.
All students must agree to a covenant prohibiting sexual intimacy outside heterosexual marriage, under pain of possible expulsion, which has led to controversy over the university's new law school.
Paquette was furious and told CBC, "My beliefs have developed who I am as an individual, but they don't come into play when I am doing my job."
Christianity 'destroyed our culture'
In the rejection email, Amundsen also wrote: "The Norse background of most of the guys at the management level means that we are not a Christian organization, and most of us actually see Christianity as having destroyed our culture, tradition and way of life."
Paquette wrote Amundsen back defending her faith, saying "your disagreement with Trinity Western University, simply because they do not support sex outside of marriage, can in fact be noted as discrimination of approximately 76 per cent of the world population!!! Wow, that's a lot of diverse people that you don't embrace."
She also wrote that the Norse people chose Christianity.
"I signed it God Bless, probably partially because I knew it would irritate them," Paquette said.
It clearly irritated Amundsen, who wrote back, describing himself as "a Viking with a PhD in Norse culture. So propaganda is lost on me."
Trinity Western grads 'not welcome' in company
He explained why graduates from Trinity Western are not welcome in the Norwegian company.
"In asking students to refrain from same-sex relationships, Trinity Western University, and any person associated with it, has engaged in discrimination."
He ended the email writing, "'God bless' is very offensive to me and yet another sign of your attempts to impose your religious views on me.
"I do not want to be blessed by some guy... who has been the very reason for the most horrendous abuses and human rights violations in the history of the human race."
Amundsen then used an expletive to state that if he met God, he would have sex with him.
It was that comment that prompted Paquette to retain a lawyer to take her case to B.C.'s Human Rights Tribunal.
"That's kind of the most offensive paragraph in all the emails because that's going pretty far," said Paquette, who cringed when she re-read the email and another one that followed from Amaruk's co-CEO.
Christopher Fragassi-Bjørnsen joined the email chain writing that while "Trinity Western University believes that two men loving each other is wrong… we believe a man ending up with another man is probably the best thing that could happen to him.
"But we do not force these views onto other people, and we are completely fine if a guy decided to go the emasculation route by marrying a B.C. woman," Fragassi-Bjørnsen wrote.
Paquette said she resents the assumption that she would impose her beliefs on others in the workplace.
"They'd never even met me and never talked to me in person, and they just assumed all these things… and found it OK to attack me."
Amaruk's emails 'over the top'
Paquette's lawyer Geoffrey Trotter said, "You are not allowed in British Columbia to refuse to hire someone because you associate them with other people, from centuries ago, who you think they did something they shouldn't have done."
Trotter called Amaruk's emails "nasty" and "over the top."
Officials at Trinity Western University agreed, saying they've never before heard of any of their grads filing a similar complaint against a company.
Trinity Western spokesperson Guy Saffold told CBC, "Canadians shouldn't be treated this way by a foreign company." No faith should face discrimination, he said.
"Mocking of their religion — there is a personal shaming element to it that was most unfortunate."
Company says emails 'a mere expression of opinion'
CBC requested an interview with Amaruk Wilderness Corp..
In an email, Amundsen responded saying Paquette's job application was rejected "solely based on the fact that she did not meet the minimum requirements of the position."
"Any further discussion after that, including the fact that we strongly disagree with the position that gay people should not be allowed to marry or even engage in sexual relationships, would have been a mere expression of opinion," the email says.
Micheal Vonn of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said employers are not supposed to express opinions about an applicant's religious background.
"You are allowed to think anything you like. But you have obligations as an employer to act in a non-discriminatory manner," Vonn said.
She said the Human Rights Tribunal will have to consider the reason Paquette was rejected.
"What you have is written documentation that more or less is tantamount to a sign on the door that says no one of religious affiliation need apply for employment here. We don't usually see discrimination cases that are quite this stark."
Not 'open season' on Christians in Canada: lawyer
Trotter said if the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal concludes his client was discriminated against, he will seek compensation for lost wages and "for injury to feelings and self respect."
"The main thing that she's been asking for is to order this company to stop discriminating."
Trotter is asking the tribunal to send "a really strong message" that "it is not acceptable to discriminate based on what somebody believes or where they went to school. That it is not 'open season' on Christians in Canada."
Full statement from Amaruk Wilderness Corp.
"As per rejection letter attached, Ms. Paquette was not considered for a position with our company solely based on the fact that she did not meet the minimum requirements of the position.
Any further discussion after that, including the fact that we strongly disagree with the position that gay people should not be allowed to marry or even engage in sexual relationships, would have been a mere expression of opinion.
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