Ottawa — The president of an Ottawa Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) local has filed a human rights complaint against both his union and his employer on religious freedom grounds.
Treasury Board employee David MacDonald, who works for Industry Canada, claims he has been “discriminated against and harassed based on my religious beliefs.”
As a Catholic, MacDonald objects to PSAC’s public advocacy of same-sex marriage and the union’s anti-heterosexism policy that violates his conscience and deeply-held religious beliefs.
“The hostility towards Catholics is very open and the fact that they are trying to rid heterosexism, which would include Catholics, is very troubling,” MacDonald said in an interview. “This adds to the feeling of being uncomfortable within the workplace.”
The president of Local 70160 has included the Treasury Board in his complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) because it refused his request to divert his dues to charity. The Treasury Board will allow only those who belong to religions that prohibit belonging to labor unions to divert their dues. MacDonald thinks this provision is too narrow.
The Treasury Board could change its policy, he said, if it conformed to recent Supreme Court decisions. A change “would allow most people, I believe, to make this decision by checking it off on their union card that they wish to have their fees diverted.”
“The only test would be whether they are acting in good faith,” he added.
If this policy expanded to allow a greater range of conscientious objection, MacDonald said he believes “those who are masquerading as unions” would have to choose between becoming real labour organizations or continuing to function as political parties with a significantly lower membership.
MacDonald said he sees no contradiction in remaining president of his local because its activities are separate from the political arm of the PSAC. “What the local does is in fact what a union is supposed to be doing: fighting for workers’ rights, doing grievances, all the things one would expect a union would be doing.”
He also stressed he would as quickly defend the rights of a gay employee as he would those of religious believers.
MacDonald is following in the footsteps of Treasury Board employee Susan Comstock, also a Catholic, who unsuccessfully tried to have her dues diverted on religious and conscience grounds. When the CHRC refused to hear her complaint, she took them to court. When the federal court dismissed her case, she launched an appeal last spring with the federal appeal court; she awaits a hearing.
MacDonald became alarmed at what he described as anti-Catholic remarks made to the media and internally as Comstock’s case worked its way through the system. His CHRC complaint includes several pages of documentation of remarks and e-mails that even appear to threaten retaliation against him and his local.
MacDonald said he knows of other PSAC members from a variety of religious faiths who would also like to divert their dues.
— Courtesy of Canadian Catholic News. Please do not reprint without permission.