Bahai News - Ex-prof challenges treatment Jan. 16, 2002. 07:47 AM

Ex-prof challenges treatment

Claims U of T rejected him because of his Baha'i faith

Tess Kalinowski
Staff Reporter

RenÉ Johnston/toronto star

Benjamin Lawson, a former UofT professor,
has made a discrimination claim to the
Ontario Human Rights Commission.

A former University of Toronto professor has suffered financial, emotional and career damage as a result of the university's repeated rejection of him for tenure-track positions between 1990 and 1994, an Ontario Human Rights Commission board of inquiry has heard.

Benjamin Todd Lawson is arguing that the university discriminated against him on the grounds of his Baha'i faith and his Canadian citizenship.

The university contends that the focus of Lawson's scholarship was too narrow for the position in medieval Islamic thought studies, for which he applied twice; the position was never filled.

Another tenure-track position for which Lawson applied was given to another professor, who went on to chair the university's religious studies department.

Lawson, 53, is seeking wages and pension benefits equivalent to the earnings he would have made if he had attained a tenure position, as well as compensatory damages for the negative impact on his career, about $500,000, according to his lawyer Robert Gibson.

He was denied a tenure-track position three times while working at the university on contract.

In one case, selection committee members identified him as the only Canadian candidate qualified for a job teaching in the university's Islamic studies department.

Lawson had complained to the university that job selection committee members had questioned him about his Baha'i faith and that a faculty member had expressed concern about too many Baha'i professors teaching Islamic studies.

A university investigation concluded there was no discrimination against Lawson, who lives in Montreal and has not found full-time teaching employment since his U of T contract expired in 1994.

Lawson approached the University of Toronto Faculty Association with allegations of discrimination based on his religion and his Canadian citizenship. The association filed a complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The investigator found Lawson's case was among the 5 per cent of complaints the commission finds worthy of a hearing at the board of inquiry.

The chair of the three-person board of inquiry, Patricia DeGuire, issued an order yesterday against the publication of any evidence in the proceedings until the board has heard all the evidence in the case, which is expected to go until June.

In her order, DeGuire stressed that neither the commission's counsel nor Lawson's lawyer asked for the publication ban.

©Copyright 2002, The Toronto Star

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