Last year around this time, a complaint was filed with the Ontario Human Rights Commission when a Toronto barber and practicing Muslim denied a woman’s request for a haircut as against his religion. It was reported about on the RightsWatch blog here. In August of this year, the case was quietly settled in a closed-door mediation session. This isn’t the only recent case of its kind. Also in August, a woman was denied a haircut at a Hamilton barbershop. In this case, the complainant had a voucher for a free haircut but the store owner said his business is for men only (no religious reasons). She is also reportedly filing a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal.
While public officials didn’t comment on the above cases, CBC reported on the Ontario government’s recent introduction of legislation requiring barbers to learn a new combined curriculum including perms, colouring, etc. in order to be licensed. Consultations will apparently take place over the next two years to potentially create a distinct category for barbers, though barbers need to be licensed in order to operate right now.
While there is no mention of the above cases in discussions about the legislation, which touches on all sorts of trades not just barbers, one can’t help but wonder if this is a sign from the government that businesses will not be able to discriminate for religious or any other reasons. One has to wonder about women’s only gyms, though.
In the ‘poll question’ of 9,021 votes, 97.61% hold that barbers should not have to learn women’s hairstyling techniques to be licensed.