Back to top

KEEPING IT REAL: 'Little Flower' mindset can sow weeds

Another Monday, and more than a million British Columbians head off to work: to earn a living,  pursue careers, provide services for clients, satisfy their own desire to contribute to society and share the stories and challenges of their lives with their closest co-workers. Lisa Reimer, however, is forced to stay home.

From everything I can see, Reimer is no revolutionary, no activist, no troublemaker.  Until a couple of weeks ago, she was a teacher at Little Flower Academy Catholic School intent on only doing those things I’ve outlined above … just living her life,  like every other working British Columbian. 

But Reimer was suddenly told NOT to come to work: the school would cancel her classes, pay out her contract to the end of June and she could complete any marking she had to do electronically from home.

Did she do anythnig wrong? Charged with a crime? Mistreat any kids? Steal school supplies? Get into arguments with management or co-workers? Apparently not.

But she is a lesbian and, so her story goes, after she revealed … I assume with the usual pride of any new parent … that her same-sex partner had given birth to their son, some Little Flower parents found out about it, were and upset, and, she says, she was then dismissed.

The school has said she is on “personal leave” and will be paid to the end of her contract, but has offered little other explanation.

Reimer is considering filing a human rights complaint. I hope she does, and wins. 

Does a private school, club or business have the right to “discriminate” on the basis of its own closely held tenets or values?  The question is far more complex than it may seem, especially for those of us of liberal views, who abhor any discrimination.

But the truth is we live in, and willingly support, a world of discrimination.

Restaurateurs and bar owners regularly choose servers based as much on looks as working ability; retailers and their customers often opt for appearance over produict knowledge; hotels do the same, and so do many office managers--and don’t forget television news.  :)

There are also many, many instances in our society where people “discriminate” for or against others, based on the way they talk, their political bent or even what part of the city (or Metro area) they come from or live in. 

Discrimination in Canada is not illegal: EXCEPT in cases of gender,  race, religion, disability or SEXUAL ORIENTATION.

And, in my view, those areas of human rights protection should be paramount in employment, even in the case of private religious schools or private clubs or private residential communities.  If someone meets all other competency qualifications, discrimination based on their race, gender, physical disability or sexual orientation should NOT be sanctioned by our society. 

Because discrimination affects more than just the victim himself or herself: in Reminer’s case, if her case is as she sets it out, the discrimination succumbs to and even rewards the prejudices of the parents who objected to a homosexual’s mere presence, even if she had done absolutely nothing untoward.  Unacceptable, in my view.

And what makes it even worse, the kids are watching:  it  teaches another generation of Little Flowers that gays are second class, not worthy to teach in their school, even to be avoided and literally sent packing. Unacceptable, again.

If we as a society allow gays (or any other minority) to be portrayed and classified as second rate, then how can we be surprised when someone like Michael Kandola lashes out violently against someone just because he perceives them to be gay?

Kandola was sentenced Friday to 12 months in jail, on top of almost three months already served in custody, for knocking out a gay man in Vancouver’s West End in an unprovoked attack that was accompanied by homophobic slurs.

The violent hatred that Kandola exhibited is often sown in the soil of discrimination and derision.  It is a weed that has to be eradicated from our society.

And it sure looks like Little Flower is a good place to apply a  human rights ruling, so tolerance and understanding can grow there, instead of providing fertile ground for the weeds of discrimination and hate.

Reprinted by permission of Harv Oberfeld. This article first appeared on his blog,  Keeping it Real.