JOHN MOORE

A woman walks into a barbershop.....

Posted By: John Moore · 11/15/2012 5:32:00 PM

Wow. It's been a long time since I have had as many calls, e-mails and text messages about a topic. But there's a reason why Faith McGregor's story has caused such a stir; it hits on so many social fault lines, it makes your head hurt. 

McGregor works in the downtown and prefers a man's haircut. When her usual barbershop was all full up she tried another one. The barber said he couldn't handle her because she was a woman and as a Muslim that was a violation of his faith. She asked to see another barber. They were all Muslims. She didn't get the cut. That prompted McGregor to file a human rights complaint. 

It's a unique case because McGregor has the right to equal service but people of faith also have a right to have their religious preferences respected. Deadlock. 

Here's why this case captivates: it's about faith versus secularism. It's about multiculturalism and integration. It's about how vexatious the whole human rights tribunal system is to many. But it goes further than that. It actually exposes a lot of hypocrisies in our society. McGregor is an out lesbian and no small number of callers and texters called her a trouble maker. Problem is these same people weren't thrilled about the idea of Muslims trying to perpetuate the very unCanadian notion that woman are second class citizens. You have to apply some pretty interesting tests to your thinking. If you are inclined to defend the right of a barber to pick and choose his clients are you also ready to go to bat for the taxi driver who wont pick you up if you have booze or a dog? If you think a Muslim should put up and shut up do you also think Christians who want to take their kids out of sex ed should do the same? And if you don't like the gays AND the Muslims, which side do you choose anyway?

This case is a perfect storm which is why we'll be talking about it for some time to come. 

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  1. unknown_man posted on 11/15/2012 06:02 PM
    If a white guy refused service to a Muslim everybody would be up in arms. It should be the same in this case.
    1. Abin Sur posted on 11/15/2012 06:14 PM
      @unknown_man "If a white guy refused service to a Muslim..."

      Refused on what grounds? Religion? Sex? Colour? The cut of his jib?
  2. Julia Gulia posted on 11/15/2012 09:13 PM
    How 'bout: a man walks into the women's fitness club... Really, some people have too much time on their hands. Lady, get a life. Show some respect and you'll get some in return.
  3. Ian posted on 11/16/2012 09:37 AM
    I'm basing this opinion on assuming the facts are straight that a Muslim is bound by his faith not to touch another woman...

    Two things seem to occur to me:
    1) Under his 'Freedom of Religion' - he has no choice. His religion binds him to one course of action - to say 'NO'.
    2) Her "Freedom from discrimination' was quite possibly violated (although I think this word may be too strong). However, her 'freedom' allows her an option - namely to go somewhere else - for which she has a multitude of options.

    In viewing right or wrong in this case, to decide in her favour and declare the Muslim wrong provides the option to the Muslim - cut hair (and break a religious code) or shut down. A ruling in favour of the Muslim store owner means that there is ONE less location for this woman to get a hair cut - in the grand scheme of things, big deal.
  4. Paul posted on 11/16/2012 11:45 AM
    If the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal rules in favour of the Muslim barbershop what would that say about their 2000 ruling against Christian printer Scott Brockie who was fined $5,000 for refusing a print job for the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives?
  5. Stephen Smith posted on 11/16/2012 02:04 PM
    A tough case, talk about splitting hairs. Well one thing for certain in a 24 hour news cycle this story will be hair today, gone tomorrow.
  6. A Canadian born and bread. posted on 11/17/2012 12:10 AM
    I am stunned that this woman filed a human rights complaint in the first place.
    I think that this has more to to with her image of herself then human rights.
    She is most likely a masculine lesbian who needs to look and feel like a man.
    Why else would she go to a barbershop. You can get a mans haircut at any unisex hair salon in the city. She went to a barbershop. A place a woman does not traditionally visit. It is a mans hangout.
    When the Muslims told her that they could not work on her because she is a woman it must have really ticked her off because in her eyes she is just one of the guys (not some frilly female) .
    She has a chip on her shoulder about her masculinity and being looked upon as week (as in the weaker sex).
    I think she needs to give her head a shake and come to terms with the true reason why she is doing this. This has nothing to do with human rights. This is about her pride being hurt and her self identity issues.
    The Muslims ? . I don't think they did anything wrong.
    This is a multicultural country with many different religions . Why respect one and not another. I don't think the Muslims were being deliberately discriminatory .
    Let face facts. If you opened a barber shop would you expect woman customers to visit. If I were Muslim and I lived in a busy city like Toronto and needed a job where I had only men customers because of religious requirements then I think barber would be a darn good choice don't you.
    Most woman would have understood and politely thanked the barber and left once the religion reasons were explained.
  7. Kim posted on 11/17/2012 09:07 AM
    A human rights violation? I doubt I could understand this if there were only two barbershops in Toronto. Her choices for this service are vast. My gut tells me this is a bid for attention, I would hate to think it results from bigotry.

    When did we stop caring for each other to the extent that she feels it is her right to receive service from someone regardless of whether it compromises his beliefs. She had every opportunity to walk a little farther down the street and find another shop.

    That said, this action belittles the concept of human rights violation and diminishes the true victims.
  8. Deborah Nixon posted on 11/18/2012 07:24 PM
    Who has the time to worry about stuff like this? I always wonder about the agenda of people who do this type of thing. What a huge waste of time and taxpayer money.
  9. Keith M posted on 11/19/2012 07:46 PM
    Taxi drivers should be able to refuse service if you have a dog. Unless you have a medical reason for needing the dog, like a seeing eye dog. Since they are private businesses owning private vehicles they should have the same options in terms of who they are allowed to refuse service as any other business in Ontario. Likewise if this Muslim barber doesn't want to cut this woman's hair then he should not be forced to. Thats a loss for his business, but that is ultimately his choice as either the businesses owner or employee.

    Even the sex ed point John brings up has its problems. Making sex education mandatory (at some age) as part of the curriculum makes sense because of the serious medical problems (aka diseases) that are spread because of sexual activity as well as problems associated with young pregnancies. Making children, and they are children at 12 or 13, go through these sort of courses is more like a minimum standard of education for creating responsible citizens then it is "big government" trying to force adults to do something. It should not be a choice for these children or one that their parents can take them out of precisely because ultimately it is a matter of disease prevention (which in the long term can help save taxpayers money).

    Hopefully this woman fails in this ridiculous attempt at extorting money from a legitimate business.
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