Human rights complaint launched by TWU grad

A Trinity Western University graduate has filed a human rights complaint against a Norwegian wilderness company she says targeted her religious beliefs.

In September, Bethany Paquette, who is 23 years old and graduated from Trinity Western in the spring with a degree in biology, applied to Amaruk Corp. for a position as a winter assistant guide intern.

The next day, she received an email reply from wilderness guide and instructor Olaf Amundsen.

Amundsen told Paquette that she did not meet the minimum requirements for the position outlined on the company’s website.

Paquette said the rejection was “not a big deal.” It was what came next that shocked her.

“Additionally, considering you were involved with Trinity Western University, I should mention that, unlike Trinity Western University, we embrace diversity, and the right of people to sleep with or marry whoever they want, and this is reflected within some of our staff and management,” Amundsen wrote.

The evangelical Christian university requires students and faculty to sign a Community Covenant that includes a pledge to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

Amundsen went on to say that Amaruk is not a Christian organization and he believes that Christianity destroyed the Norse culture, tradition and way of life.

After getting over her shock at the response, Paquette fired off an email to Amundsen, signing it “God Bless” in, she admits, an attempt to provoke him.

She received another response from Amundsen – which stated that graduates from Trinity Western are not welcome at Amaruk – plus emails from Amaruk’s Christopher Fragassi-Bjornsen, Dwayne Kenwood-Bjornsen and Arkyn Borg.

“I was definitely surprised with how many responses I got back and how much worse they got with each one,” Paquette said. “It was definitely really hurtful and it made me really angry to be discriminated against so harshly when I’d just applied for a job.”

Paquette filed the human rights complaint Sept. 30 because she wants to make sure that Amaruk doesn’t discriminate against future job applicants.

In an emailed statement, Amaruk said Paquette was “eminently unqualified” for an assistant guide internship position.

The statement does not address the comments made about Paquette’s religious beliefs or university education.

Trinity Western spokesman Guy Saffold said Paquette’s situation is “completely unprecedented” at the school and he hopes it’s an isolated incident.

Paquette said it has crossed her mind that listing Trinity Western as her alma mater on her resume could cause her problems in the future, but she said doesn’t want to work somewhere that wouldn’t hire her because of where she went to school.

“I’m really happy I went to Trinity and it’s been an extremely good experience for me,” she said. “You shouldn’t be ashamed of where you went to university.”

Geoffrey Trotter, Paquette’s lawyer, said the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has not yet accepted the complaint — screening takes about three weeks — but he believes the tribunal won’t have a hard time seeing why Paquette was turned down for the job.

“It’s a really clear-cut case of religious discrimination,” Trotter said. “This is just as unacceptable as an employer rejecting an application because someone is female, black or gay.”

– Jennifer Saltman is a Vancouver Province reporter.

Read more Vancouver Province stories here.

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