METRO VANCOUVER — A Surrey man, an ordained minister in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, is involved in a holy war of sorts with ICBC over his right to wear his religious headgear â€” a spaghetti strainer â€” in his B.C. driver’s licence photo.
Obi Canuel, 36, raised some eyebrows last November when he walked into an ICBC office with a colander on his head. He was there to renew his licence and update his photo.
Since ICBC’s own website states "ICBC affirms your rights to religious expression. You will not be asked to remove any headgear that does not interfere with facial recognition technology as long as it is worn in conjunction with religious practice," Canuel said he didn’t think it would be a problem.
Pastafarians, the name that church followers have given themselves, have already won the right in the U.S., Czech Republic, New Zealand and Austria to wear colanders in their driver’s license photos. In Pomfret, N.Y., Christopher Schaeffer wore the headgear when he was sworn in to town council earlier this year.
ICBC, however, doesn’t appear to be as friendly to the Pastafarian cause.
It’s been nine months and Canuel still doesn’t have his license.
"I kept being told it was under review," said Canuel, who says he made dozens of calls to ICBC since last November. "Each time I was put on hold for at least 20 minutes. It was very difficult to get a clear answer as to what was going on."
In July he received the bad news in the form of a letter from ICBC. They weren’t going to approve the photo of him with the colander on his head.
"Based on the information you have provided, we understand there is no religious requirement that prohibits you from removing the colander for the purpose of taking the photo to appear on your driver’s licence," the ICBC letter stated. "However, you may attend the nearest ICBC Driver Licensing Office and have a free duplicate photo captured without head coverings and we will then issue you a Driver’s Licence with the new photo."
ICBC supplied The Sun with the letter it sent to Canuel but refused to answer any question related to his file.
The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which was formed in 2005, may not have the same cachet as some of the world’s major religions â€” and sure, its followers say they worship a giant spaghetti monster that created the universe 4,000 years ago while drunk â€” but the church was officially registered as a non-profit society in British Columbia last year.
"I don’t think ICBC should be deciding which religions are appropriate or not," said Canuel, one of five church directors listed with the BC Registry Services.
The exact same photo being denied by ICBC was approved for use on his BC Services Card.
Canuel, who has a philosophy degree from Simon Fraser University, isn’t giving up his fight and has uploaded a video detailing his struggles with ICBC â€” including audio from his numerous dealings with phone representatives â€” onto YouTube at http://bit.ly/1lVWnnz.
"I have tried to go through the proper channels and have gotten nowhere. For that reason I’ve taken this private little dispute public," Canuel said at the end of the five-minute video. "If you care about religious freedom and you think people should be free from discrimination based on religion, if you don’t think that the government should be asking me questions about my religious beliefs, then please share my story."
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