Pride society files human rights complaint after Catholic parish refuses to rent venue
Star of the Sea Parish declined rental after learning it was for pride event, White Rock Pride Society says
The White Rock Pride Society has filed a formal human rights complaint against the local Catholic parish after the church refused to rent a venue it owns to the society.
Society president Ernie Klassen filed the complaint against the Star of the Sea Parish on the basis of sexual orientation on Monday.
In an April interview, Klassen said the society had hoped to hold a dinner-and-dance event at the Star of the Sea Community Centre to raise funds for a camp that supports LGBT youth.
Klassen told CBC he confirmed with the parish that the hall was available and then asked if holding a pride event there would be a problem.
"They said, 'Well, we'll get back to you,'" Klassen recounted in an interview.
"They phoned me later in the day and said that, as you maybe thought, there are going to be some issues, and we don't believe we can rent the hall to you."
He said the society then put the rental request in writing. They received a reply from the parish lawyer confirming that the rental would not happen, because the pride society does not align with the values of the Catholic Church. Klassen said a second request was also denied.
"The effect of each of these denials was to single out the pride society as a group that was unwelcome to use the community centre, which was otherwise available to rent to members of the general public," reads Klassen's complaint to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.
"In doing so … the parish damaged the inherent dignity, feelings and self-respect of the pride society's members, who identify as part of and support the LGBTQ+ community."
Klassen said the society's first fundraiser, at a local Elks Hall last summer, sold out. He said 200 people had to be turned away, which is why the society wanted the bigger Star of the Sea venue this year.
The B.C. Human Rights Code addresses discrimination based on sexual orientation, but also gives exemptions to groups like churches for freedom of religion.
The complaint said the society wants the tribunal to conclude the parish was discriminatory without genuine justification.
With files from Belle Puri