BC Human Rights Tribunal dismisses complaint in Kirk v. Burnaby Hospice Society, 2019 BCHRT 5

BC Human Rights Tribunal dismisses complaint in Kirk v. Burnaby Hospice Society, 2019 BCHRT 5


Naomi R. Rozenberg, Associate
Phone:  604-685-3911
Email: nrr@lmlaw.ca



In Kirk v. Burnaby Hospice Society, 2019 BCHRT 5, Lesperance Mendes successfully dismissed a human rights complaint brought by a former employee of a non-profit hospice society.

The Burnaby Hospice Society provides support and services to palliative patients at the end of life, along with their families.

The complainant, Mr. Kirk, was the Executive Director of the Hospice Society from August 2014 until May 2017.

Mr. Kirk alleged that the Hospice Society discriminated against him by:

  • refusing to endorse a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) form in support of his claim for the clergy residency tax deduction,
  • obstructing his vision of providing “spiritual care” as part of his duties as Executive Director; and
  • terminating his employment.


The Human Rights Tribunal ultimately dismissed all of Mr. Kirk’s allegations, concluding that the Hospice Society had not breached the Human Rights Code. The Tribunal found as follows:

  1. Kirk’s religion was not a factor in the decision of the Board of Directors to not endorse his application for the CRA tax deduction.
  1. The Board’s refusal to support Mr. Kirk’s interest in providing spiritual care services was not an adverse impact regarding his employment. It was not reasonable for Mr. Kirk to have expected the provision of spiritual care to have been a part of his duties as Executive Director. There is a “clear, distinct difference between the practical and compassionate care that the Society provides within its mandate, and spiritual care that is provided by designated practitioners approved by the professional settings in which the Society operates”.
  1. Kirk had not established that his religion was a factor in the termination of his employment. The Board’s unanimous decision to terminate Mr. Kirk was based solely on the following factors:

a.  Kirk provided himself pay raises that were not authorized by the Board.

b. The Society had made contributions to Mr. Kirk’s RRSP account under an RRSP matching program, but Mr. Kirk had not made any of the required corresponding contributions from his pay cheque.

c. The Board was very concerned about the negative feedback regarding the Society’s lack of volunteers and Mr. Kirk’s response to this issue.

d. The Society’s staff complained that Mr. Kirk did not keep regular hours, an issue that had been raised with Mr. Kirk and was referenced in his performance review.


WHAT WE DO:  Lesperance Mendes regularly advises clients on human rights issues in the context of employment and strata corporations.  If you are facing a potential human rights complaint, please visit us at www.lmlaw.ca for more information and to contact a lawyer.

THIS ARTICLE IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE:  This article provides general information and should not be relied on upon without independent legal advice.