“Not Sikh”: Catholic woman alleges religious discrimination by Khalsa Credit Union

A Catholic woman has filed a human rights complaint against the Khalsa Credit Union.

Emilia Peszynska alleged that her investment in a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) was cancelled by a Surrey branch of the credit union because of her religion.

For its part, the Khalsa Credit Union denies discriminating against the woman. The Vancouver-born credit union argued that provincial legislation allows it to exclude people who are not Sikhs.

The issue is before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, and tribunal member Pamela Murray has issued reasons for decision on the credit union’s application to dismiss Peszynska’s complaint.

According to Murray’s summary, Peszynska heard a radio ad by the credit union about what she thought to be a good return for an RRSP. She set up an appointment with the Surrey branch.

Murray noted that both parties agree that on February 22, 2017, Peszynska signed paperwork to become a Khalsa member.

Peszynska paid $35 to purchase shares in the credit union. She left a “reasonably large cheque” for a term RRSP. The cheque was cashed by the credit union.

The next day, Peszynska received a call from Khalsa advising her that her RRSP transaction was “cancelled because she had not signed a religious declaration”.

As related by Murray, the declaration reads in party: “I solemnly declare that I believe in One God, the Ten Gurus (from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh), in Siri Guru Granth Sahib, in Siri Guru Granth Sahib’s Bani and teachings, and in Guru Gobind Singh’s Amrit and do not follow any other religion.”

Peszynska also received a letter from then Khalsa CEO Dalbir Singh Mehta, who “wrote, in essence, that Ms. Peszynska could not be a Khalsa member because she is not a member of the Sikh religion”.

For Peszynska, this is discrimination on the basis of religion in services customarily available to the public, which is prohibited by Section 8 of the human rights legislation.