HRTO to Hear Mosque Parking Complaint

July 24th, 2014 by

In a complaint filed with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (“HRTO”), two men are alleging that a bylaw which prohibits parking on a Mississauga side-street during Muslim prayer hours is discriminatory. Muhammad Khalid, and his son Salman, received a parking ticket in May 2012 when they parked on Finfar Court, a street nearby the ISNA Canada Centre, the mosque that the Khalids attend. The ticket was issued pursuant to a bylaw which states that parking on the side-street is prohibited between 12-3pm on Fridays. While this may strike some as uncontroversial, Friday is considered the holiest day of the week by many Muslims, and the impugned hours coincide exactly with the mosque’s noon-time prayer service hours. Thus, the Khalids allege that the bylaw purposefully discriminates against Muslims.

However, in a National Post article run earlier this week, a representative of the city responded, saying that the aim of the bylaw wasn’t discriminatory, but was geared towards public safety. During prayer hours, the mosque’s 400 car parking lot is usually full and ends up spilling over into nearby side streets. The city alleges that the overflow traffic causes problems, such as illegal parking, congestion, and the like, and that residents have complained.

It will be interesting, should this matter proceed to the HRTO, to see how the Tribunal approaches the issue and the how the competing constituencies of religious and property rights activists characterize it. There has been an unfortunate body of thought in the United States that views actions like those of the Khalids as a means of cultural subversion. Simply put, and without paying any credence to the viewpoint, some argue that ethnic groups will move into an area, set up a community centre or religious hall, and create parking havoc in an attempt to drive out the neighbours and claim the neighbourhood as their own. One hopes that such rhetoric will not inform the litigation and that the Khalids and the city will bring the matter to a satisfactory and mutually palatable resolution.

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