White Rock Pride Society files human rights complaint against Catholic parish

Jun 5 2019, 12:38 am

The White Rock Pride Society (WRPS) has filed a human rights complaint against a Catholic parish in the community, following what it says is a decision by the parish not to rent their venue to the group for an annual fundraising event.

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In a release, the WRPS said it has filed a complaint “alleging discrimination by the Star of the Sea Parish, on the basis of sexual orientation, contrary to s. 8 of the Human Rights Code, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 210.”

The filing of the complaint is related “the parish’s refusal to rent the Star of the Sea Community Centre to WRPS for an annual fundraiser event,” according to the release.

The WRPS said the issue first arose following a 2018 inaugural fundraising by the society, called “Love is Love,” which was held at the Elks Hall – a venue with the capacity for about 120 people.

This event sold out and the society began to look for other venues that could hold larger crowds, along with the ability to meet certain criteria – such as a low-rental rate, and a fully equipped kitchen – for the event, the complaint says.

The group eventually decided that the Community Centre, located on Pacific Avenue, would make the best location.

According to the complaint, signage on the Community Centre identifies it as being property of Star of the Sea Parish and is “advertised online for private function rentals.”

The complaint notes that WRPC’s Ernie Klassen called the parish in August 2018 to ask about renting the venue for this year’s event. He was told it was available, but then he proceeded to inform the person on the line that he was calling on behalf of the WRPS. Klassen, he was told this would be an issue.

Klassen received a second phone call, informing him that the WRPS likely would not be able to use the venue.

Following the parish’s refusal in August 2018, the WRPS obtained a copy of the formal rental application for the Community Centre. Clause 11 of the Rental Agreement reads as follows:

  • The Facilities and Equipment at the Centre are rented without warranty on an ‘as is’ basis. The Renter shall be responsible for regulating admission to the Vent and providing for the personal safety and security of their agents, employees, patrons and invitees. The Renter shall supervise the use of the Facilities and activities at the Event in the same manner as would a prudent owner.
  • The Renter shall use the Premises solely for the purpose of ____ and for no other purpose without the prior written consent of the Pastor of the Parish or his delegate. The Renter acknowledges that the Premises may in no event be used for any purpose which is unlawful or contrary to the practices, or teachings on matters of faith and morals, of the Roman Catholic Church as interpreted by the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

On January 10, 2019,  Klassen and Susan Tucker, another member of the Pride Society, attended at the offices of the Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Surrey, to submit the rental application, “which they had filled out to the best of their ability,” the complaint says. “By filling out and submitting the rental application, the Pride Society agreed to use the Community Centre for the 2019 Fundraiser in accordance with the terms on the rental

On January 11, 2019, “the parish reiterated its refusal to rent the Community Centre to the Pride Society for the 2019 fundraiser,” according to the complaint.

This was followed by a letter, in which counsel for the parish stated the reasons for refusing the Pride Society’s second request. Those reasons included a reference to Clause 11 of the Rental Agreement and the position that the 2019 fundraiser was “contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Faith on matters of faith and morals on matters of homosexuality as it encourages and supports homosexual lifestyles.”

The complaint says the parish “denied the Pride Society’s successive requests to rent the Community Centre, first on the basis that it did not rent the Community Centre to members of the LGBTQ+ Community, and later on the basis that the 2019 Fundraiser was contrary to the faith and morals of the Roman Catholic Church.”

The effect of these denials, it adds, “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.”

As such, the complaint says, “the parish’s rejection of the Pride Society’s successive requests to rent the Community Centre constitutes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

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,” it concludes.

As this matter is now before the Human Rights Tribunal, the “WRPS is not in a position to provide any further comments regarding the facts or issues of this case,” the group said.

Daily Hive has reached out to Star of the Sea Parish for comment, but did not hear back by time of publication.

Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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