Saturday, July 25, 2009

“It’s discrimination.” Really?

no photo licenseAfter a lengthy legal battle, Alberta Hutterites have lost their bid for an exemption to Alberta’s laws requiring a mandatory photo on provincial driver’s licences.

Citing security and identity theft concerns, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned lower court decisions by a 4-3 margin, effectively saying that in this case broader social benefits trump religious rights.

"The negative impact on the freedom of religion of colony members who wish to obtain licences does not outweigh the benefits associated with the universal photo requirement," Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote in support of the decision.

Not unlike the debate over the rights of Muslim women to wear the niqab, this decision will likely trigger controversy in some circles.

"It's discrimination, that's the right word for it," Wurz said.

Sam Wurz, manager of the Three Hills Hutterite colony, was quick to trot out the D-word – discrimination – as if this was legislation designed to target a specific religious community. By definition, to discriminate means to treat or favor one group differently. Ergo a special accommodation for one group, i.e. treating them differently because of their religious views, was the real discrimination here. And that has now been corrected by the Supreme Court’s decision that this particular law applies equally to ALL Albertans.

(Photo: Calgary Herald)

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