LETTER – Special Accommodation (McGill University Fitness Centre )

LETTER – Special Accommodation (McGill University Fitness Centre )


Dear Ms. Fortier,

I am addressing you as  McGill University Alumnus.
During my time at McGill, from 1992 to 1996, I earned two law degrees.  Despite the heavy coursework, I still managed to find time to go to the gym and use the weight room, the exercise room, the squash courts and later the indoor track, once it was opened.
As a member of the Judo Club for four years, I was in the martial arts room twice weekly.  I served as a liason between the gym and the McGill Outing Club for many years.
After graduation I continued my connection with the McGill gyms as an instructor of the kayaking program, and also as an assistant instructor in the Aikido Club.
I have benefited greatly from the gym facilities and my memories and attachment to McGill Athletics and Recreation Centre are deep and strong.

I am now writing you to voice my opposition to the idea of sexually segregated hours, as is currently being proposed.  I understand that this trend is being increasingly explored at other facilities as well.   I consider the concept to be very much against the modern, liberal, socially open society that Canada represents and that McGill University should be encouraging.  I can understand the ideal of wanting to accommodate everybody, however, this ideal becomes self-defeating if you accommodate philosophies that are segregationist.
I understand that certain individuals, such as Soumia Allalou, claim that they cannot train nor benefit from the facilities because men are present.   It is of critical importance to the good of our society that a role model such as McGill University remain steadfast in pursuing liberal, inclusive and modern values.   The mindset of people such as Soumia Allalou is anathema to the ideals of a modern Western, liberal institution.  Allowing such people to impose discriminatory policies would be an explicit approval of such a retrograde mindset and would be a step backward in the cultural evolution of our society.   If Soumia Allalo and people of similar viewpoints are incapable of evolving and adapting to the most basic of modern Canadian norms and values, then they will have to find, manage and or finance their own alternative manner of exercising their preferences and their prejudice.  Such should not be tolerated nor encouraged by an institution that is supported in large part by public funds.

The message sent by McGill University and by Canada as a whole to society and to the outside world should be as follows:
All are welcome.  All may bring with them their culture and practices.  None may impose their culture upon others, nor force their bias or their beliefs upon other groups or individuals.

To approve segregated training hours of the manner proposed is tantamount to importing a prejudice against both men and women at the same time.   Such is not the nature of the McGill Community to which I belong since twenty-three years.

Yours truly,

Daniel Romano, Esq



Letter published with Mr Romano’s permission


University of Toronto Professor Clifford Orwin defends right of Muslim women to wear niqab while taking ceremony oath

Stephen Harper’s veiled attack on religious freedom


Special to The Globe and Mail

Published Last updated 

Clifford Orwin is a professor of political science at the University of Toronto and a distinguished fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

Stephen Harper is not just smart; he can be highly insightful. In 2011, for example, he established the Office of Religious Freedom in the Department of Foreign Affairs. He thus showed himself ahead of the curve on an issue whose importance has continued to grow. In that same year, unfortunately, his then minister of immigration, Jason Kenney, announced a domestic rule tending to religious suppression. Last week that ruling returned to haunt Mr. Harper.

ONTARIO: University chaplains resign over changes to office and Muslim prayer space

University chaplains resign over changes to office and Muslim prayer space

Print Print

Decision-making process called into question; University says student needs were their priority

Taylor Lasota // GAZETTE

This story was updated on Nov. 26 at 9:30 a.m.

Western’s longest-serving chaplain, along with four of his colleagues, has resigned in protest over the recently announced move of the Chaplains’ Services offices and a dedicated Muslim prayer space in the University Community Centre.

Rev. Michael Bechard, Western’s Roman Catholic chaplain, submitted his resignation and those of Janet Loo, Annette Donovan Panchaud, Melissa Page Nichols and Maija Wilson from the UWO Chaplains’ Association, to University President Amit Chakma on Friday.

The University announced last week that the current Muslim prayer room in University College would be moved along with the Chaplains’ Services offices to one space in the basement of the UCC. In addition, the current multi-faith space in the UCC will no longer be used.

Bechard’s concerns are two-fold. He explained that the principle behind having a dedicated space exclusively for one faith group is contrary to how the UWO Chaplains’ Association advocates for faith space on campus. Additionally, he claimed that the decision-making process was flawed and only included certain groups.

TORONTO: Stacy Joseph considers that nikab-wearing school bus driver poses safety risk

Is Canada moving in this direction?

Exclusive: Mother claims a niqab-wearing school bus driver poses a safety risk

 Tammie Sutherland and Toronto Staff

 Related Stories and Links

A Toronto mother claims a niqab-wearing school bus driver poses a safety risk because she’s not easily identifiable.

Stacy Joseph says she doesn’t think the niqab, a veil that some women in the Muslim community choose to wear to cover their faces, should be worn while driving her seven-year-old son or her four-year-old boy who has special needs.

“As a parent I’m concerned that I don’t know who is driving them,” Joseph told CityNews. “I know the other bus drivers, I know them by face, I know them by name so I can easily identify them.”

She says this is not about any particular person or religion, it’s about the safety of her children.

“It has nothing to do with religion or anything like that, it’s just a matter that her face is covered and if anybody’s face was covered I’d be concerned,” said Joseph.

Under the Ontario Human Rights code, bus drivers, like any other employee in the province, must be reasonably accommodated when it comes to their religious faith – and that includes allowing them to wear religious clothing.

While the niqab is sparking concern from Joseph, others in the community say, in their experience, it’s widely accepted.

Afia Baig has been wearing a niqab in Canada for the past 18 years and although she doesn’t know the bus driver personally, she says concerns of impersonation or identity issues can be quashed by just having regular conversations with the driver.

“I see where they’re coming from, but I think they have really nothing to fear about it,” said Baig. “I think its more the fear of what is behind, what the woman is going to be like, of who is going to be sitting behind the wheel, and when she gets to know her, I’m sure 100 per cent the fear will go away.”

Niqabs have sparked controversy in the past, with protests against a Quebec law that bans women wearing the veils from receiving or providing public service.

Religious rights and security rights also collided in 2010, with allegations Air Canada failed to visually verify the identity of women boarding a flight in Montreal.


ONTARIO: Woman allowed to drive while wearing nikab (2010)

Hat tip to A.D.

Youtube :posted by abuammararafat
Uploaded on 6 Apr 2010
A person is witnessed driving a Lincoln Navigator wearing an Islamic veil (Niqab). If this person were to commit a traffic violation, or worse, then how could they be positively identified later? For example, if a veiled driver were to run over a pedestrian, then flee, how could any witnesses positively identify that perpetrator, beyond any reasonable doubt?

People discussing the topic:

TORONTO: CBSA allows Hindu priests to avoid female officers

‘The request is offensive to me as a woman,’ Pearson airport border guard tells CBC

CBC News Posted: Aug 07, 2014 3:59 PM ET Last Updated: Aug 07, 2014 7:13 PM ET

Canada Border Services Agency managers at Toronto’s Pearson airport allowed a small group of Hindu priests to avoid screening by female border guards to comply with their religious beliefs, CBC News has learned.

A CBSA officer, outraged that such a request would be considered, spoke exclusively to CBC News about what happened at Pearson’s Terminal 3 on the evening of Monday, July 28. Fearing she could be disciplined for speaking out, the officer spoke on the condition that her name and identity be withheld.