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Former B.C. massage school ordered to pay $12k for discrimination

Majid Shahadat was denied access to a service because of his religion, said the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal in its decision

A former Northern B.C. massage school has been ordered to pay $12,500 for making discriminatory claims against a Muslim man.

In January 2019, Majid Shahadat, who is Muslim and has been in Canada for 25 years, scheduled a lymphatic massage treatment online with the Northern School of Spa Therapies in Fort St. John, according to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal decision issued on April 17.

That evening, the school's director Joyce Middleton emailed him requesting “credentials” and asking him to “confirm you are not of the Islamic faith, which has earned a bad reputation for raping and killing of infidels in Canada and elsewhere.”

Three days later, she sent a second email stating they are not taking “new male clients that we do not know” because “we have to protect our students, who happen to be all girls at this time.” She directed him to another male massage therapist.

“Because of Ms. Middleton’s discriminatory views, Mr. Shahadat was denied access to a service normally available to the public, based on his religion, place of origin, ancestry, and colour,” stated tribunal member Devyn Cousineau in the decision. “This denial was a violation of his dignity and an affront to B.C.’s commitment to an equitable society.”

Middleton did not take part in the hearing, but provided a written statement.

In her previous efforts to dismiss Shahadat’s application, Middleton claimed she was not racist, but was fearful of Shahadat.

In the decision, she stated she was entitled to protect herself and the “young girls” who work at the school.

She stated her risk assessment was based on “world news, police reports, country statistics, excerpts directly from the Qur’an,” including references to “evidence of Islamists killing, raping and torturing Nigerian women and children over Christmas 2023.”

To justify her assessment that Shahadat posed a potential risk to her and her students, Middleton relied on “misinformation from what appear to be far-right, anti-Muslim, internet websites,” stated Cousineau, and relied on the stereotype of vilification of Muslim people with no factual basis.

Cousineau stated it is clear Middleton genuinely believes the Qur’an promotes violence against women, children and non-Muslims and she is free to hold these views “as repugnant as others might find them.

“However, if she wants to run a business in British Columbia that serves the public, she cannot use those discriminatory views to decide who she will serve,” she said.

She ordered the school and Middleton to pay $10,000 for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect and another $2,500 for improper conduct for exposing Shahadat to further discrimination and inflammatory anti-Muslim propaganda in her submissions and for threatening to sue him in B.C. Supreme Court.

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