Calgary

Commission rules in favour of 2 Muslim students who wanted prayer at private school

The Alberta Human Rights Commission tribunal has again ruled in favour of two Muslim students who sought prayer space at a non-denominational private school in Calgary.

Calgary's Webber Academy was fined $26,000 in 2015, Court of Appeal ordered new hearing

The Human Rights Tribunal of Alberta released a decision on Thursday in favour of two Muslim students who wanted prayer space at the private school during school hours. (CBC)

The Alberta Human Rights Commission tribunal has again ruled in favour of two Muslim students who sought prayer space at a non-denominational private school in Calgary.

The tribunal had previously found in 2015 that Webber Academy in southwest Calgary unlawfully discriminated against the students, fining the school $26,000. 

The school appealed that decision, though it was upheld by a judge.

In 2018, however, the Court of Appeal of Alberta ruled that the original decision contained a number of errors, including a mistake in evaluating the level of accommodation being asked of Webber Academy. 

The new tribunal also ruled in favour of the two students, Sarmad Amir and Naman Siddiqui, who had previously told the tribunal that praying is mandatory in their Sunni religion.

"I had this intense sense of shame and humiliation, despite that I was just exercising my right as a Canadian citizen, as a human being, to practise my faith," Siddiqui testified before the human rights tribunal.

New appeal

School president Neil Webber said Webber Academy planned on immediately appealing the decision to the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench, adding that the school's lawyer believes that the new decision also contains errors of law.

"We feel that we should have the right, as a private school, to have youngsters here of many different faiths and backgrounds together, free of religious practices," he said.

"Parents have choices in terms of sending their kids to schools that have a denominational belief, so I don't see any difference for Webber Academy to be able to have a school where their kids are in an environment that's free of religious practices."

Webber said that he believes that if the complainants win the case, it would set a precedent. 

"I think it sets a [situation] where schools right across the country will have to provide prayer space for youngsters coming into their school. It's not just an impact on Webber Academy, it's going to have implications across the country," he said.

With files from The Canadian Press and Rick Donkers

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