In a recent decision out of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, H.S. v. The Private Academy, 2017 HRTO 791, a same-sex, married couple alleged that their adopted child was denied the opportunity to be admitted to a private Christian Evangelical school because of their status as a same-sex married couple.
The parents filed three applications under the Ontario Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c H.19 (the “Code”), alleging discrimination because of sex, creed, family status and marital status. The private school argued that they were justified in barring the child from their program on the basis that they had a long-established religious stance against same-sex marriage and that to allow the child to attend would conflict with the schools’ teaching and values.
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario held that the private school had not breached the anti-discrimination provisions of the Code. The Tribunal held that the school’s decision fell within a narrow “special interest” exception and had not breached the right to equal treatment of services, as set out in the Code. The Tribunal stated: “The school has a well-defined and specific set of creedal beliefs, mission statement and mandate. The respondent [school’s] evidence was clear that the school requires all parents to share these values if they are considering the school for their family.”
The Tribunal concluded: “While I empathize with the parents’ feelings of unfairness that their child would not be admitted, the respondent made no secret of its beliefs and was upfront that it may not be the right fit for every family.”