Politicians criticize York siding with student who snubbed working with women

by Jennifer Ditchburn, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – Federal MPs of all political stripes took a Toronto university to task Tuesday for siding with a male student who requested that he be excused from participating in a group project with women.

The York University student, whose name has not been released, cited religious grounds for the request. His religion is unclear.

Sociology professor Paul Grayson originally rejected the man’s request that he be allowed to skip a group project last fall; the student went on to meet with his female classmates as scheduled.

But Grayson said he was later told by the dean of the faculty of liberal arts and professional studies that the student should have been accommodated, since the request did not have a ‘substantial impact’ on the rights of other students.

“York is a public secular university with a commitment to equality,” Grayson wrote in a Dec. 9 report on the matter that was provided to The Canadian Press.

“As a result, my initial assessment was that to grant the accommodation would be to give tacit support to a negative view of women.”

The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the administration’s position found no support among federal MPs asked about the controversy Tuesday.

“This is what we’ve tried to combat in places like Afghanistan,” Justice Minister Peter MacKay said in an interview.

“Building schools there, and ensuring now that millions of girls are able to attend school alongside boys, I believe, is a very positive accomplishment of our country.”

Added NDP Leader Tom Mulcair: “I don’t think a university should be accommodating such a demand.”

Parliamentarians with ridings in the vicinity of York also weighed in.

“It’s nothing short of ridiculous,” Liberal MP Judy Sgro said of the student’s request. “We live in a country seeking gender equality…. This is Canada, pure and simple.”

Conservative MP Mark Adler said in an email that the school “needs to realize that this kind of sexism has no place in Canadian society.”

It’s not the first time the question of accommodating religious beliefs has made waves in Ottawa.

The Quebec government is currently holding hearings into its proposed charter of values, which would restrict the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols such as turbans and hijabs by public-sector workers.

Federal parties, with the exception of the Bloc Quebecois, have roundly criticized the legislation as unnecessary and infringing on religious freedom.

But MPs have shown their own thresholds for such accommodations in the past. For example, there has been collective support for insisting voters show their faces while casting a ballot during federal elections.




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Politicians criticize York siding with student who snubbed working with women

  1. The basic law of the land, our constitution, says all Canadians are equal.

    York university is at fault here.

    • The irony here is that the subject was sociology. York rejected one of the basic premises of our society. I wonder what else they would so casually throw under the bus?

      • York has often been on the wrong side of history for some reason.

  2. “His religion is unclear.” u get 3 guesses. Islam? mohamidanism? muslim?

    • Could also be Jewish.

  3. More infiltration, pure & simple.

    • Water filters?

  4. Regarding the debate over the charter of Québec values,, the proposed legislation would reinforce gender equality, including an amendment to the Québec charter of the rights of the individual, creating a hierarchy of rights = gender equality would trump religious freedom. As they say, you practise a religion by choice but you are not male or female by choice. It is because of situations like this one at York that the proposed legislation appears to have considerable support in Québec. Most of the debate centers on the hijab being forced on Muslim women by Muslim men.

    • The Quebec debate also centres on Sikh men who are being forced to wear a turban and Jewish men who are being forced to wear a yamaka so really is not all about one gender or another but is equally bigoted.

      • I disagree. The law would forbid civil servants from wearing turbans and kippas, and IMO that would be one bigoted and silly law, but the debate I read about at length, daily, in French, is almost exclusively about the hijab and gender equality, about Maria Mourani and Fatima Houda-Pepin, the message to our children who are being taught by female teachers forced to wear the hijab by the men in their family or community, etc.

        Le Devoir has an interesting headline this morning, and an interview with Grayson, including this quote from the prof: :

        …Le prix à payer pour restreindre l’intrusion des croyances religieuses dans la sphère publique est peut-être qu’il faut interdire le port du crucifix. Si c’est le prix à payer pour que tout le monde soit traité également, soit. Je ne vois pas le problème. »
        (The price to pay to limit the intrusion of religious beliefs in the public sphere may be to forbid the wearing of the crucifix. If that is the price to pay for equal treatment for everyone, so be it. I see no problem).
        I think the prof is saying a silly thing, but I observe once again that gender equality is the main engine in the debate over the proposed law.

        • I have seen women wearing a hijab at work. They don’t look particularly oppressed. And they are working – allowed to work – which is more than many women in our western countries could do not all that long ago. You appear to be looking at this from the limited perspective of feminism, which for the most part doesn’t approve of women wearing the hijab. But some women don’t mind and may even like wearing them.

          I don’t know what’s “silly” about what the prof said. He doesn’t religion to interfere in his classes, not even Christianity. Although Christianity is our country’s heritage, he is willing to have the cross banned if it will stop these other things from going on.

        • Religious oppression cloaked in an insincere and paternalistic pretense of concern for women who are being oppressed by their families? So….the government is going to take away a woman’s families’ right to chose what she wears by taking over the right to chose for her? Meanwhile, the citizens are going to demean the women in the streets (ie: the daycare workers wearing the hijab and niqab) in way of being supportive of their equal rights?

          • What you just wrote is precisely why I disagree with the QC proposition. I have written similar texts in French many times! And I totally agree with Gérard Bouchard who today writes in Le Soleil that the PQ is lying to citizens and treating them like children. The PQ would have us believe that the average citizen meeting a government employee named Samuel Bronfman, wearing a ring with the star of David as allowed by the government, that this ordinary citizen would not notice that this is a Jewish civil servant because he is not wearing a kippa. That is so absurd it makes my head boil.
            However, in all these debates that I hear, all the comments that I read, the issue of gender equality always comes up, and with what has just happened at York U I cannot ignore that well-educated people can come with very different interpretations of protection of gender equality as written in the Canadian charter, and to think that is a problem that should be fixed.

    • I don’t think you can use these two – gender equality and religious freedom – in the manner that you do, as being the same in their significance. I understood the problem in Quebec (or one of them) was women wearing the hijab on the job, as public servants. They are most definitely allowed religious freedom, but when they work for the civil service, they are required to dress and act in a certain way so that their religion isn’t in your face, so to speak, if you are a customer. And if men wanted to wear the hijab, they should also not be permitted to, on the job, just as women shouldn’t.

      So this situation of the man wanting to obey his religious custom and not associate with women, gender may be underlying it, but it is religion that is the issue. He is free to practice his religion, but if he wants credit for his course, he has to do what is expected of him.

      • “gender may be underlying it”
        In a nutshell, that’s it. Gender equality is underlying the whole debate of religious accommodations and the charter of Quebec values. If gender equality is not crystal clear, and from what just happened at York it would seem that people in position of authority don’t share a common understanding from the law as written, then it’s time for the politicians to step in and make it clear. Peter McKay seems willing. BTW I do not agree with the proposed QC legislation.

        • No, actually, it is probably sex that is underlying the entire fiasco. The two sexes, and the act of sex, whichever way you want to look at it, is the basis of all the trouble.

          We use the word gender to be nice, so as not to have to discuss the real issue. Men and women are different and there never can be equality in the way some people want it. If that is to happen, then difference has to be taken into account. There are schools that are for one sex only, but this was not one of them.

          This man preferred to study apart from women, presumably due to his religious beliefs or ones he has been told to obey. Underlying the rules men and women of various religions have to abide by are beliefs about sex (biology) and the roles of men and women (gender), as well as real sexual difference between men and women. So it’s not really ‘equality’ that underlies it after all. It’s difference.

          How you look at it depends on your starting point. You say it is gender, which I don’t think the real controversy is about. But whether it’s gender roles, sex or religion that is the basis of it is hard to tell, as all three are intertwined.

  5. May I just say that this woman who was spared working with this misogynist at York was lucky to have been spared the honor. If the professors accommodated his request to save her angst, they did a good thing. However, they should have told him that he is likely living in the wrong country and should consider emigrating.

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