Two students from Webber Academy in Calgary filed a human rights complaint against their school, which was heard by the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal in February 2012.
As discussed in a previous post, these two students are Sunni Muslims and as per their religion, they are required to pray five times a day with two of the prayers occurring during school time. The prayers only take five or ten minutes and the two students and their families asked Webber Academy to allow them to pray in an empty classroom or a small space, the amount of space that a chair takes up, inside the school. However, the school would not provide this space or accommodate the students in any way. The two boys were required to go outside in the snow if they wanted to pray. The Alberta Human Rights Tribunal decided in favour of the two students, and Webber Academy appealed the decision to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. This case was heard in 2016 and Webber Academy’s appeal was dismissed. Justice Poelman decided that, “Webber Academy unlawfully discriminated against the students, [and] the judge also upheld a $26,000 fine.”
Last Tuesday, Webber Academy has announced that it will further appeal the Court of Queen’s Bench decision to the Alberta Court of Appeal. “Webber will not reveal what the new argument involves other than it focuses more on Charter of Rights [and Freedoms].” Moreover, Webber Academy still prohibits prayer inside its walls and, the Academy makes, “it clear to all incoming students and their parents that it is non-denominational and there is no space in the school for praying.”
It will be very interesting to hear Webber Academy’s Charter argument and for this very long case to come to a close.