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Former BC massage school ordered to pay $12K for racist claims

The owner of a former massage school in northern BC has been ordered to pay over $12,000 for refusing to serve a potential client based on Islamophobic claims.

According to an April 17 BC Human Rights decision, the Northern School of Spa Therapies, which operates in Fort St. John has been ordered to pay costs associated with “improper conduct” and for compensation for injuring the man’s dignity, feelings, and self-respect.

According to the decision Majid Shahadat, who identifies as a Muslim man and has lived in Canada for over two decades, booked a massage at the school online in July 2019.

However, the response he got back from the director of the school has been found to be discriminatory and a violation of section eight of the Rights Code.

“Later that night, Joyce Middleton, the director of the School, emailed him to ask him for ‘credentials’ and to ‘certify you are not of the Islamic faith, which as you know has earned a bad reputation for raping and killing of infidels in Canada and elsewhere,’” says the decision.

“In a subsequent email, she confirmed that the School would not be accepting new male clients because they needed to ‘protect our students, who happen to be all girls at this time.’”

<who> Photo Credit: Northern School of Massage, Facebook </who> The school used to operate at 10244 99 Ave in Fort St. John, shown in this picture, but new information suggests it is now located at 10423 100 Ave.

This is not the first time this matter has been before the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

In May 2023, Middleton applied to dismiss the complaint on “several grounds.” She also applied for reconsideration and chose to submit more evidence after it failed to have the case dismissed earlier in the year.

“The ‘new information’ presented, however, appears to repeat submissions the Respondents made in their original application about the characteristics they attribute generally to male followers of the Islamic faith,” said the decision from 2023.

“In essence, the application repeats or restates the Respondents’ submissions in the original application. The law is clear, however, that reconsideration is not an opportunity to ‘reargue matters that were argued in the first instance in an attempt to achieve a different result.’”

Ryan Goldvine, the tribunal member who oversaw that decision, denied the application for reconsideration.

In the April 2024 decision, tribunal member and vice chair of the tribunal, Devyn Cousineau, says Middleton has continued to reiterate perceived fears, “which are rooted in invidious and harmful stereotypes” of Muslim people.

“Ms. Middleton has advanced a ‘defence’ that seeks to prove that her fears are rational and based on tenets of Islam which promote violence, particularly against women and children,” says Cousineau.

“In doing so, she has not only proven the elements of this human rights complaint but deepened the extent of the harm to Mr. Shahadat.”

Cousineau adds that Middleton relied on misinformation from what appeared to be “far-right, anti-Muslim, internet websites.”

Cousineau’s decision lays out 11 examples of Middleton’s attempt to justify her assessment of Shahadat that range from her allegedly asking him if he is “Jihadi,” to her asking Shahadat to denounce certain part of Qur’an, to requesting that he bring a police officer to his massage and reportedly submitting a handwritten note with her 2023 evidence that reportedly said “All Muslims are NOT terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims” (as written in the decision).

The decision says the defence that Middleton sought to rely on was based on “stereotypical beliefs about Muslim men, with no factual basis to suggest Mr. Shahadat posed any risk.”

Cousineau concluded by saying that Middleton violated the Human Rights Code, declared her conduct to be discriminatory and ordered her to cease the contravention.

Middleton has been ordered to pay Shahadat $10,000 for injury to his dignity, feelings and self respect and another $2,500 for improper conduct.

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