On Campus

UBC vindicated in discrimination lawsuit

Student alleging religious discrimination has been denied chance to appeal at the Supreme Court

A student who has been suing the University of British Columbia, over allegations of religious discrimination, since 2002 will not get the chance to take her case further. The Supreme Court has upheld rulings from lower courts and denied Cynthia Maughan leave to appeal.

Cynthia Maughan, who was enrolled as a graduate student in a winter term English seminar in 2001, claims the B-minus she received from professor Lorraine Weir was the result of religious discrimination. Her accusations implicate the school and three other UBC professors — Susanna Egan, Anne Scott and Judy Segal — as well as $30 million in damages. She also asked that her grade be changed from a 73 per cent to 79 per cent, according to a 2009 article in the Ubyssey.

The university posted a press release on its site on April 29 stating its approval of the Supreme Court’s decision to deny the appeal.

“This was an important case, not only for individuals at UBC who were cleared of any wrongdoing, but also for UBC as an institution,” the university’s counsel Hubert Lai is quoted as saying. “It is the duty of a university to foster freedom of thought and speech in an open and tolerant atmosphere.”

Maughan had previously made her case at the B.C. Court of Appeal and the British Columbia Supreme Court, who both upheld there was “no merit” and no evidence to support Maughan’s argument that her Charter rights under the B.C. Civil Rights Protection Act (CRPA) were violated.

According to the background in the B.C. Supreme Court judgment, the basis of Maughan’s claim stems from Weir’s refusal to reschedule a class colloquium and what she says were anti-religious comments on her submitted paper.

Maughan, who is an Anglican Christian, claims she asked Weir to reschedule the colloquium, set to take place on a Sunday at a fellow student’s house. According to the background, the host student, named only as ‘M’, participated in an e-mail exchange via an English graduate students listserv regarding Stockwell Day and his Canadian Alliance Party in November of 2000. ‘M’ writes in the end to one of his e-mails: “He [Stockwell Day] makes me recall fondly a time period when Christians were stoned.”

Maughan apparently took issue with ‘M’s comments, though she did not file any official concern to the university until May 2001.

Accommodations were made for Maughan to submit her paper to Weir without penalty and to skip the colloquium, though her religious concerns regarding the e-mail exchange were not made known to Weir. The student later claimed, after reading Weir’s comments on her submitted paper, her grade was based on “anti-religious bias.” She made attempts to appeal the grade and resubmit her paper by dealing with the school’s Equity Office and Faculty of Graduate Studies, but these options were denied, leading Maughan to appeal at the court level.

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