NCCM welcomes tribunal decision on discrimination by Calgary school

-For Immediate Release-

(Ottawa – April 17, 2015) The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), a prominent Muslim civil liberties advocacy organization, welcomes the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal’s recent decision that a Calgary private school discriminated against two Canadian Muslim students.

In a decision released April 10 and reported this week, the tribunal found that Webber Academy Foundation failed to uphold the human rights of the two students who wanted to privately observe their Islamic prayer at school by preventing them from doing so anywhere on campus.  In a lengthy and detailed decision which relied on previous Supreme Court of Canada rulings and other relevant case law, the tribunal found that the private school could have reasonably accommodated the request but chose not to.

The human rights complaints were filed by the parents of two boys who were 14 years old at the time of the discrimination.  Dr. Shabnam Nazar and Farhat Amir said that their sons, Naman Siddiqui and Sarmad Amir, were deeply hurt and humiliated by the treatment they experienced at the school, which included being asked to pray outside in the snow so as not to make other students “uncomfortable”.

“[…] We find that Webber Academy’s standard of no overt prayer or religious activities on school property was not reasonably necessary to accomplish Webber’s purpose of maintaining a non-denominational identity that is free from religious influences, and that the Students could have been accommodated without incurring undue hardship,” reads the tribunal’s judgement.  The tribunal ordered the school to pay the two students a total of $26,000 for “distress, injury and loss of dignity”. That included special damages awarded to one of the students “to compensate for the consistent fear which he developed.”

“This is an important and welcome decision,” says Amira Elghawaby, the NCCM’s Human Rights Coordinator. “This school clearly discriminated against two students who simply wanted to practice their sincerely held religious belief quietly and without causing any undue hardship to the school or to other students.  Reasonable accommodation was a straightforward resolution which the school ignored.  Educational institutions must be a welcoming place for all students by respecting their dignity and fostering an inclusive atmosphere that advances youth integration.”

The NCCM presents workshops and publishes guides on issues of diversity and accommodation. To see the NCCM’s Guide for Educators, click here.

The NCCM is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization that is a leading voice for Muslim civic engagement and the promotion of human rights.


CONTACT: Amira Elghawaby, Human Rights Coordinator, 613.254.9704 or 613.853.4111