Catholic says Khalsa Credit Union denied her membership because of religion

Emilia Peszynska files human rights complaint after Surrey branch rejects her attempt to buy RRSP because she’s not Sikh

A Catholic woman has lodged a human rights complaint against Khalsa Credit Union on the basis of religious discrimination, claiming she was denied service because she is not Sikh.

Emilia Peszynska said she heard an advertisement on the radio for what she thought was a good rate for an RRSP and made an appointment with a Surrey branch to invest.

Khalsa Credit Union, established in 1986, has three branches in Surrey, one in Abbotsford, one in Vancouver and one in Saanich. According to its website, khalsacreditunion.ca, “Khalsa Credit Union (KCU) is a credit union based on the Sikh faith. KCU is proud to serve the Sikh community.”

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal heard Peszynska completed a membership application and left a “reasonably large” cheque at the Surrey branch but received a call from the credit union the next day informing her that her RRSP transaction was cancelled because she did not sign a religious declaration.

Tribunal member Pamela Murray, in her July 26 reasons for decision, noted Peszynska then received a letter from Dalbir Singh Mehta, CEO of KCU, “in which he wrote, in essence, that Ms. Peszynska could not be a Khalsa member because she is not a member of the Sikh religion. Ms. Peszynska says Khalsa and Mr. Mehta discriminated against her on the basis of religion in services customarily available to the public.”

READ ALSO: Publication ban lifted on transgender complainant’s name in Surrey waxing dispute

READ ALSO: Woman files human rights complaint against former Surrey employer, alleging racial discrimination

READ ALSO: Tenant claims landlord discriminated against her for smudging

The respondents deny any discrimination and applied to have Peszynska’s complaint dismissed. Murray dismissed the complaint against Mehta, but not against the credit union.

“The respondents primarily argue that legislation that applies to Khalsa requires or permits discrimination on the basis of religion and that membership in Khalsa – which they say is the service at issue – is not a service customarily available to the public,” Murray summarized. “However, I cannot find in the circumstances either that Ms. Peszynska’s complaint does not allege an arguable contravention of the Code or that her complaint has no reasonable prospect of success.”

None of the claims have yet been proven or disproven in a hearing before the tribunal. Murray noted the complaint “raises challenging legal issues that are likely to be of importance to the public, particularly in view of the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent decision in Law Society of British Columbia v. Trinity Western University.” In that case, Canada’s highest court in a 7-2 vote upheld a decision to deny accreditation to the TWU law school because it required students to commit to a religion-based covenant prohibiting sex outside of marriage between a man and woman, contrary to the rights of LGBTQ law students.

“Given the importance of the issue, certain factual similarities between this complaint and Trinity Western, and the slim materials before me, I am not prepared to dismiss Ms. Peszynska’s complaint on a preliminary application,” Murray decided.

Peszynska’s situation with Khalsa began Feb. 22, 2017, when she did her membership paperwork, paid $35 for shares, and left a cheque for the RRSP investment.The respondents argue that when KCU was established the Credit Union Act required that a credit union “shall have a common bond of membership which shall be based on…religious, ethnic or social interest.”

They told the Tribunal that people wishing to join KCU must sign a religious declaration, filed in September 1986 with the Superintendent of Credit Unions, Co-operatives & Trust Companies, that reads: “I solemnly declare that I believe in One God, the Ten Gurus (from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh), in Siri Guru Granth Sahib, in Siri Guru Granth Sahib’s Bani and teachings, and in Guru Gobind Singh’s Amrit and do not follow any other religion.”

Murray said Peszynska told the Tribunal she is “deeply concerned that, in modern Canadian society, she could be denied financial services because of her religion.”

The Tribunal heard that Mehta no longer works with KCU. The respondents argue the only allegation against him is that he wrote a “polite” letter to Peszynska explaining KCU’s “common bond of membership.”

Peszynka’s counter-argument is that as CEO Mehta was “more than just an employee” and had the ability to “change Khalsa policies to include all Canadians.”

Murray, however, found Mehta’s letter to Peszynska “does not involve the kind of responsibility or culpability that suggests he should remain as a respondent.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Thomas Dawson Peacock
Surrey man, 32, charged with sexual interference

Incidents alleged to have happened in Surrey and Abbotsford

A Mercedes SUV is covered at a gas station in the Clayton area following a deadly shooting there on Sept. 28, 2019. (File photo)
The number of new COVID-19 cases has risen sharply in Vancouver and the Fraser North region over the last week.
Chart: Tyler Olsen
CHARTS: Weekly COVID-19 case double in Fraser North health area, up 50% in Vancouver

The number of new COVID-19 cases has risen sharply in Vancouver and the Fraser North region.

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Three more Surrey schools reporting COVID-19 exposures

INTERACTIVE TABLE: Search for schools, organize by exposure dates

Elections BC has received a little more than 42,000 vote-by-mail packages from Surrey voters. . (Black Press Media File)
Elections BC has received about 56,000 mail-in ballots from Surrey voters

Election results won’t be finalized until after Nov. 6

Physical distancing signs are a common sight in B.C. stores and businesses. THE CANADIAN PRESS
272 more COVID-19 cases for B.C., outbreak at oil sands project

Three new health care outbreaks, three declared over

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

The Excelsior 4 are set to make their second court appearance in Abbotsford on Monday (Nov. 2). (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
‘Excelsior 4’: Animal activists set to enter not guilty plea in Abbotsford hog farm case

Animal rights activists expected to plead not guilty to charges, protest for Vancouver scheduled

Dennis Cholowski shows off a Jordan 2 Retro Just Don Blue sneaker, the type of shoe only a true sneakerhead would appreciate. (Facebook photo)
VIDEO: Chilliwack Chiefs alum Dennis Cholowski shows off ‘sneakerhead’ collection

The Detroit Red Wing has been spending his NHL paycheques building up an impressive closet of shoes

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Maestro Otto Tausk. (Photo: vancouversymphony.ca)
50/50 lotto players buck up for Metro Vancouver musicians hit hard by COVID

‘Rapidly growing jackpot’ for VSO’s 50/50 draw as they go online with TheConcertHall.ca

Most Read