Ottawa Falun Gong practitioners are applauding the decision after the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled against the Ottawa Chinese Seniors Association for expelling an elderly Chinese woman because she practices a meditation discipline persecuted in China.
The case arose after the association forced out Daiming Huang, a 78-year-old Canadian citizen, because she practices Falun Gong. The association went on to publicly criticize her beliefs using terminology the Chinese Communist Party uses in China to justify a 12-year violent suppression of the group.
“The case arises in the context of the Chinese regime’s international campaign against Falun Gong, with its Embassy and Consulates in Canada mobilizing the Chinese community to denounce and ostracize practitioners,” reads a statement from the Ottawa Falun Dafa Association.
Huang was attending a New Year’s celebration at the association on Dec. 29, 2001, when she noticed a Chinese Embassy official in attendance was looking at her. Minutes later, the secretary of the association, Feng Xu, approached her and told her the board of directors had decided they would no longer accept Falun Gong practitioners.
When she returned in February for a Chinese New Year celebration and to ask the chair about the decision to cancel her membership, she was berated by other board members who said she was part of an “evil cult,” while seniors visiting the centre looked on.
The tribunal ruled that Falun Gong constitutes a creed and is protected within the meaning of Ontario’s Human Rights Code, and that the association breached that code when it ejected Huang on the basis of her belief.
The tribunal also ruled that the public attack on her beliefs was an affront on Huang’s dignity and caused her to lose face within her community, and that she is made more vulnerable because Falun Gong is persecuted in China.
The association was ordered to pay $15,000 in damages to Huang and invite her back to the association within 30 days of the order.
“This is not just a success for Daiming Huang, it is a victory in the worldwide battle against the Communist Party’s oppression of Falun Gong,” said David Matas, legal counsel for Huang.
The ruling was the second victory for Ottawa Falun Gong practitioners this year after the City of Ottawa’s Public Health Department issued an apology because Sally Zhang, a nurse with the department and a member of the fair’s organizing committee, kicked the group out of a health fair in 2008 because of pressure from the Chinese Community Centre.
“I extend my sincere apologies for the events that led to you being excluded from the 2008 Asian Heritage Month Health is Wealth Fair. Ottawa Public Health is committed to the continual improvement of its point-of-contact experiences with the citizens of Ottawa and every effort has been made to ensure that similar situations do not arise again,” read the Jan 28 apology letter from Esther Moghadam, a senior manager.
The group was told three days before the 2008 health fair that their booth was cancelled due to lack of space, but Zhang later told Ottawa Falun Gong practitioner Kay Lee in a phone conversation that the booth was cancelled because the Chinese Community Centre, a sponsor of the event, threatened to withdraw if Falun Gong was included.
After an attempt to participate in the fair in 2009 was also rejected, Lee filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. The city issued the apology after the matter went to mediation early this year.