Faith McGregor walked into the Terminal Barber Shop to get a haircut — the ‘businessman,’ short on the sides, tapered, trim the top. The shop doesn’t do women’s haircuts. But McGregor, 35, said she wanted a men’s cut. The Muslim shop owner refused.
Metro NewsShop co-owner Omar Mahrouk told her his Muslim faith prohibits him from touching a woman who is not a member of his family. All the other barbers said the same thing.(What they didn’t tell her was if they found out she was a homosexual, they would have to cut her throat, according to their faith)
“For me it was just a haircut and started out about me being a woman. Now we’re talking about religion versus gender versus human rights and businesses in Ontario,” said McGregor. She filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario almost immediately, saying she felt like a “second-class citizen.”
Mahrouk’s response to the tribunal, provided through his lawyer David Kolinsky, doesn’t dispute McGregor’s complaint but says being forced to cut a woman’s hair would violate his freedom of religion. He noted that it was a matter of adherence to faith, not a gender issue.
She is asking the tribunal to force Terminal Barber Shop to offer its men’s haircuts to both genders, and suggests in her application that the shop post a sign indicating it serves both men and women. She is not seeking money.
The matter is one in an increasing number of “competing rights” cases seen by the Human Rights Tribunal, said Pascale Demers, a spokesman for the Ontario Human Rights Commission, which studies and develops rights policies. There is slim precedent in the area, said Demers, and this case could set an important one. “It’s useful because, as you know, Ontario’s population is increasingly diverse and these things are bound to happen.”