Canada: Ontario Human Rights Tribunal Rules That Discrimination against Falun Gong Practitioners is Illegal
(Clearwisdom.net) Falun Gong practitioner Ms. Huang Daiming from Ottawa filed a complaint against the Senior Chinese Cultural Association of Ottawa. The complaint alleged that the senior citizens' group was discriminating against and slandering Falun Gong practitioners. On January 18, 2006, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal agreed, finding in favor of Complainant Falun Gong practitioner Ms. Huang Daiming and the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
The respondents, the Senior Chinese Cultural Association of Ottawa, former chairman Guo Shen and former secretary Xu Feng, were found liable for breaching the Ontario's Human Rights Code on the basis of religious discrimination. The Tribunal ordered the respondents to pay to Ms. Huang Daiming a total of $18,000 in damages.
More details and background are presented below:
On December 29, 2001, Ms. Huang Daiming participated in New Year celebration activities hosted by the Ottawa Senior Chinese Cultural Association (OSCCA). Chinese Consul-General Huang Ping, accompanied by a director of the OSCCA, came over near the table where Ms. Huang Daiming was sitting. Shortly after Huang Ping left, the association announced that Ms. Huang Daiming could not participate in the association because she practices Falun Gong.
Ms. Huang Daiming negotiated with the association several times, and demanded a public apology. She was rejected. The association continued slandering Falun Gong, Ms. Huang eventually took legal action to sue the OSCCA to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. During the time, the respondents refused to reverse their decision. On November 15, 2005, Ms. Huang Daiming and Ontario Human Rights Commission delivered a complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal as the complainants.
I. Ontario Human Rights Tribunal Judgment
On January 18, 2006, following a review of the indisputable evidence from the complainant and four other witnesses, including Professor David Ownby, dean of the Department of East Asian Studies in Montreal, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal produced a 23-page judgment. The judgment found that the respondents have breached sections 1 and 9 of the Code of the Ontario Human Rights Commission for religious discrimination, that is, discrimination resulting from religious beliefs.
The judgment points out: the respondents, out of discrimination, deliberately, repeatedly and publicly revoked her membership to the association, and subjected her to demeaning comments about her belief. The Senior Chinese Cultural Association, as an organization, acted in a malicious manner, actively participating in an anti-Falun Gong signature collection petition. The respondents' discriminatory acts against Ms. Huang caused huge anguish for her, and also exposed her to exclusion, contempt, mockery, a loss of standing and isolation within her own cultural community and were a particular affront to her dignity.
The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has ordered the respondents to pay Ms. Huang $10,000 for general damages, according to the fact that Ms. Huang's dignity was being hurt, severity, frequency and duration of her being subjected to repeated harm, her vulnerability, and her experience of being persecuted for her religious belief.
The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal found that the respondents' discriminatory acts, in particular, publicly revoking her membership (a decision subsequently reconfirmed by the Association's new Council), participating in organizing petitions against her practices during Association events, caused physical and mental suffering to the complainants. As an older woman, she has lost numerous former friends because of discrimination, and even her current friends also require not to publicize their names, which subjected the complainant to psychological anguish and alienation from her community. Therefore, the court ordered the respondents to pay Ms. Huang $8,000 for damages for mental anguish.
The Tribunal ordered the respondents to take the following actions
(1) Immediately revoke the exclusion of the Complainant and any other Falun Gong practitioners from their Association.
(2) Within three months of this decision, post Human Rights Code cards written in English and Mandarin in prominent places in their Association's premises.
(3) Within three months of this decision, the Respondents must implement an antidiscrimination policy, and provide a copy of this policy to the Commission within that timeframe.
(4) Within six months of this decision, the Respondents must amend their Association's Constitution, to incorporate anti-discrimination provisions that specifically address religious animus, and provide a copy of it to the Commission within that timeframe.
The Tribunal will remain seized of this matter for a period of twelve months from the date of this Order, so that it may deal with any implementation issues that arise.
According to item 44 (1) of the Ontario Human Rights Code R.S.O. 1990, Chapter H. 19, if the respondents refuse to implement the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal's order, they would be subject to a fine of $25,000.
II. Background Information
In May 2001, the Senior Chinese Cultural Association of Ottawa organized members of the association to sign a petition to oppose Falun Gong in Dows Lake Park. At the time Ms. Huang told them not to do so, and recounted her personal experience of benefit after practicing Falun Gong.
On December 29, 2001, Ms. Huang Daiming participated in the New Year celebration activity hosted by the association, and Ms. Huang delivered her membership fee for the year 2002. Chinese Consul-General Huang Ping also attended this activity. Huang Ping approached Ms. Huang's table, accompanied by a director of the association, and took a special look at Ms. Huang. Shortly after Huang Ping left, secretary of the association Xu Feng had a "talk" with Ms. Huang on behalf of chairman Guo Shen. He said, "You Falun Gong practitioners cannot join in the association. It breaches the regulations of the association." He forced Ms. Huang to take back the receipt of the paid-up membership fee. Ms. Huang requested to see the regulation, and a written decision. She also requested to have a direct conversation with the chairman, but all of her requests were rejected.
On December 31, 2001, Ms. Huang made a phone call to the chairman of the association who said, "Not allowing Falun Gong practitioners to join in the association was the decision made in the afternoon the day before." He also claimed, "It is to safeguard the country's unity and unification."
On February 16, 2002, when the association celebrated the Chinese Lunar New Year, Several directors of the association refused to allow Ms. Huang to join in. Ms. Huang requested to meet the chairman, but was refused. The director even publicly slandered Falun Gong. Ms. Huang also saw a signature collection against Falun Gong displayed on the table at the entrance.
There was no way to negotiate with the association, at last, Ms. Huang decided to file a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
III. Professor David Ownby's expert testimony: Falun Gong's teaching is profoundly moral
This is the first case regarding Falun Gong examined and verified by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal in Canada, and the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal required the Ontario Human Rights Commission to provide expert evidence related to Falun Gong, so as to make a verdict.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission invited Professor David Ownby to be an expert witness. Prof. Ownby is Dean of the Department of East Asian Studies in Montreal. He has researched the Falun Gong issue for over six years, and has published numerous papers on the topic. He can also read and speak Chinese, and directly investigate and obtain first hand materials from many Falun Gong practitioners in Canada. The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal reviewed Prof. Ownby's background and found him to be qualified as an expert witness.
Prof. David Ownby pointed out in his testimony that Falun Gong's principle is in general "Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance," and its essence is spiritual elevation. Mr. Li Hongzhi's writings are profoundly moral.
Prof. Ownby's testimony provided reports from various human rights organizations revealing the severity of the persecution of Falun Gong in China, and at the same time, he provided materials demonstrating how the persecution of Falun Gong is not only happening in China, but has also extended to Canada.
Based on the expert evidence, the Tribunal affirmed that the respondents have breached section 1 and 9 of the Code of the Ontario Human Rights Commission for religious discrimination, that is, have breached the human rights code that one cannot be discriminated against for his or her religious belief.
IV: Call for the Chinese community to awaken to the truth
A complaint that has lasted for over four years eventually obtained a fair judgment. This is the first judgment made by the Human Rights Tribunal of Canada regarding Falun Gong practitioners being discriminated against and vilified based on expert testimony and detailed evidence.
Seventy-three year-old complainant Ms. Huang had once suffered from numerous illnesses before practicing Falun Gong. In 1996, she especially went back to China to seek medical treatment, but returned with great disappointment. Ms. Huang pointed out in her testimony to the Tribunal, "I had suffered from numerous illnesses before practicing Falun Gong, such as neck vertebra hyperplasia, lumber surge, coronary heart disease, nasosinusitis and other symptoms. Since March 1998, when I began practicing Falun Gong, I've regained a new life both physically and mentally. Within several months, all my illnesses disappeared miraculously." "In brief, Falun Gong gave me a second life."
Ms. Huang was very emotional after receiving the judgment. She said, "Only in Western countries that truly promote democracy, freedom and human rights, can respect for human rights and justice be fulfilled." "The Chinese Communist Party persecutes Falun Gong, and has poisoned the minds of many overseas Chinese who have not known the truth, and turned them into a tool for the CCP to incite hatred toward Falun Gong with. These Chinese people and Chinese communities who have been used are also victims of the CCP's lies."
Ms. Huang called for the Chinese people both inside and outside China to awaken in the face of the human rights tribunal's judgment.
V. Warning to the CCP: Stop inciting hatred against Falun Gong
In the past six plus years, the CCP has extended the persecution of Falun Gong to Canada. The Chinese consulate officials in Canada have organized various activities inside the consulate and the Chinese communities to incite hatred and vilify Falun Gong. They even delivered materials slandering Falun Gong to Canadian officials. (For details, please read reports from "World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong" at http://www.zhuichaguoji.org/en/index2.php?option=content&task=view&id=82&pop=1&page=0)
The abovementioned judgment made by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal should be a warning to the CCP to stop using people and communities in Canada to incite hatred and slander Falun Gong.
Ms. Huang and Canadian Falun Dafa Association will hold a press conference in the near future.
Note: the official judgment of the Tribunal will be available at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal web site in the near future at: http://www.hrto.ca/english/decisions/