Canadian Massage School Director Fined $12K for Discrimination Against Muslim Client

10:36 - April 24, 2024
News ID: 3488063
IQNA – The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has ordered Joyce Middleton, the director of a massage school in British Columbia, to pay $12,000 for discriminatory practices against Majid Shahadat, a Muslim man.


Tribunal member Devyn Cousineau found that Middleton's actions in 2019 constituted discrimination, which persisted throughout the tribunal's proceedings, CTV News reported on Tuesday.

Shahadat, who has lived in Canada for 25 years, approached the Northern School of Spa Therapies in Fort St. John to book a lymphatic drainage massage. He received an email from Middleton requesting him to "certify" he was not of the Islamic faith.

The tribunal determined that Shahadat was denied service based on the perception that he was Muslim, as inferred from his name. Middleton's emails were said to invoke harmful stereotypes about Muslim men and were characterized as Islamophobic by Cousineau.

Middleton reportedly attempted to justify her actions by presenting arguments based on misinformation from anti-Muslim sources. She did not attend the tribunal hearing but submitted a written statement.

Cousineau included nearly a dozen statements from Middleton's written submission, which she said "rests on stereotype and vilification of all Muslim people."

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Some of those examples showed Middleton "conflating 'jihad' with violence and terrorism," which Cousineau said "is another marker of Islamophobia."

Middleton's submissions also included a demand for Shahadat to "'denounce certain parts of the Quran" and to bring a police officer along with him if he gets a massage.

"Ms. Middleton has taken patently untrue ideas about Islam and Muslim men, rooted in Islamophobia, and applied them to Mr. Shahadat," Cousineau wrote. "She then acted on that stereotyping to deny Mr. Shahadat a service customarily available to the public. This is discrimination in violation of the Human Rights Code."

Cousineau said that, as "repugnant" as Middleton's views may be, it's "unlikely" anything she writes in her decision will change her views. Cousineau wrote Middleton is free to hold her views but, as a business owner, she can't use them to determine who she will serve.

Shahadat expressed that the incident was "truly shocking" and undermined his hard-earned reputation and sense of belonging in Canada. The discrimination he faced was said to have deprived him of his right to equal access to public life in the province.

Cousineau ordered Middleton to pay $10,000 for injury to Shahadat's dignity and self-respect, and an additional $2,500 for improper conduct during the tribunal process. The decision emphasized that while Middleton is entitled to her views, they cannot influence her business practices regarding public service.


Source: Agencies