A Saskatoon man, who filed a complaint with the Saskatchewan Human Rights (SHR) Commission over a Christian prayer by a city councillor at a City-sponsored dinner last April, says he’s been told his complaint will proceed.
The Chief Commissioner declined to confirm or deny whether a complaint has been received, according to SHR policy.
Ashu Solo, a non-Christian who was a member of the City’s Race Relations and Cultural Diversity Committee, was among the invitees of a dinner recognizing volunteers last April 18. Before the meal at the event, Coun. Randy Donauer recited a blessing that included references to Jesus and ended with “Amen,” which Solo says violated his freedom of conscience as guaranteed by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code and discriminated on the grounds of religion and creed, also under the Code.
On Tuesday, Solo – a native of Saskatoon – released to the media the fourth and final page of a letter from the SHR, which states, “The Commission has determined that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the Code may have been violated.”
The letter then invites Solo to sign a formal complaint, which, according to the SHR website, is when the complaint becomes official.
It is an early step in a process that is open for resolution at all times, but which can proceed all the way to a hearing at the Court of Queen’s Bench.
Judge David Arnot, chief commissioner of the SHR, declined to comment on the matter Wednesday.
“The Human Rights Commission needs to fundamentally maintain its neutrality vis-a-vis two parties in any complaint,” Arnot said.
Complaints become public only if they go to court.
The signing of a formal complaint is the beginning of a process in which SHR staff talk to both parties and try to resolve the matter through mediation. If no resolution is achieved at that point, the case goes to an impartial investigator who talks to witnesses and examines records to find out what happened.
The matter is referred to the chief commissioner, who decides whether it should be mediated, dismissed, go to court or be dealt with in some other way, such as a union grievance if it is work-related.
“The independence of the chief commissioner has to be maintained,” Arnot said, adding that day-to-day operations are handled by lawyers, investigators and mediators who take a problem-solving approach.
“We’re always looking for an opportunity to mediate, conciliate, to find a cooperative, positive solution … The vast majority of complaints are solved in a constructive way, well before litigation is required,” Arnot said Wednesday.
When Solo contacted Atchison to complain about the prayer last April, the mayor said he was caught off-guard because many of the events he attends include a prayer before meals. He suggested in the future, the dinner could feature prayers from different religions on a rotating basis. There could even be a dinner with no prayer at all for atheists, he said.
Donauer, who is a part-time administrator at Saskatoon Christian Centre, an evangelical church, said in April he doesn’t see anything wrong with praying to Jesus at such an event.
Donauer has not commented on the complaint since it was lodged with the human rights commission.
“If I go to a function, whether it’s a different religious organization or community organization, if they have a spiritual service, opening the function or something like that, I’ve never been offended by that, I don’t have a problem with that. People are entitled to do what they want to do,” Donauer said in April.
Solo has become a controversial citizen activist since lodging the complaint. He regularly emails complaints to city staff and council, and in December, he disputed the inclusion of electronic “Merry Christmas” messages on city buses.
Solo says he will file a complaint with the province’s human rights commission if council does not change its bus message policy.
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Original source article: Human rights complaint about prayer at city-sponsored event to proceed, says Solo
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