March 21, 2016

VANCOUVER -A B.C. human rights tribunal has sided with a Christian university graduate who felt discriminated against because of her religion.

Bethany Paquette filed a human rights complaint in the fall of 2014 after she applied for a job with Amaruk, an alleged Norway-based outdoor guiding company that is legally registered in B.C.

Her application was met with emails from fancifully named company executives criticizing her degree from Trinity Western University and using an expletive to describe what they would do to God if they met him.

They also said she was not qualified for the position.

"The nature of the harassment the respondents engaged in was egregious," said the human rights tribunal decision dated March 2.

It ruled Amaruk should pay Paquette $8,500 for "injury to dignity and self-respect." It also noted Paquette was likely not qualified for the position she had applied for.

Paquette, a biology graduate and an experienced outdoor guide, told The B.C. Catholic she is happy with the decision.

"When I decided to go to the human rights tribunal it was not for money but to protect others from going through similar discrimination," she said.

"It was not just to protect my friends and fellow students at Trinity, but because I also believe that everyone should be treated equally and with love and respect no matter their religion, background, sexuality, where they're from and so on."

Lawyer Geoffrey Trotter said Paquette has been vindicated and hers is a victory for equal treatment for everyone.

"One of the rejection emails stated expressly 'graduates from Trinity Western University are not welcome in our (Norwegian) company,' which is tantamount to a sign saying 'no Christians need apply,'" he told The B.C. Catholic in an email.

"Such a blanket exclusion is of course illegal under B.C. law, whichever minority group is involved."

Most of the tribunal hearing was held without Amaruk CEO Christopher Fragassi-Bjornsen and his lawyer, who walked out after requests for a security detail and to hold the hearing in French were denied.

While leaving, he said he would refuse to pay any monetary award to Paquette.

(The National Post reported in an Oct. 16, 2014 story by Brian Hutchinson that some wilderness company observers raised questions about the authenticity of the company.)

Meanwhile, the TWU graduate found other employment and is currently leading dog sled tours in the North.