Home Opinions There’s plenty of barbershops in the sea

There’s plenty of barbershops in the sea

by Casandra De Masi November 27, 2012
There’s plenty of barbershops in the sea

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan.

Canada prides itself on its multiculturalism, opening its doors wide to immigrants from countries all over the globe. With them, they bring their suitcases filled with culture, beliefs, values and religion. As Canada becomes more and more diverse, its multiculturalism has proven to be both a blessing and, for some people, a burden.

Terminal Barber Shop in Toronto recently found itself in the middle of a human rights dispute after the barbers refused to cut Faith McGregor’s hair back in June. The shop is run by Muslims, whose religion prohibits them from cutting a woman’s hair, unless they are a family member.

McGregor filed a human rights complaint and told the CBC that she wants “the shop to be cited and forced to give haircuts in the fashion they provide [barbershop style] to any woman, or man that asks for one.” She also wants the shop to set up a sign stating that they will serve both men and women.

Now, here is where our problem lies. We have two sets of rights butting heads with each other; the right to religious freedom and McGregor’s right as a woman to not be denied service based on her gender. This cannot be solved with a ‘my rights are more important than yours’ attitude. Barbara Hall, the Head of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, told the CBC that “no right is absolute.”

There is something about McGregor’s story that irks me. In August, the men of the barbershop came forward and offered McGregor a haircut from a willing professional. McGregor refused and according to the National Post, she said that, “now it’s bigger than what occurred with me that one day, in one afternoon.”

Bigger? Frankly, it wasn’t a big issue in the first place. There is also the argument circulating that McGregor was refused because she wanted a “men’s haircut.” That has nothing to do with it. The barbers did not refuse to cut her hair because of the length she desired. Their refusal was based on their values and that alone.

A part of me is actually bothered that this so-called violation of human rights is gaining so much attention. There are much bigger fish to fry, especially when religion is involved. It is not as if McGregor could not walk down the street and find another barbershop or salon that would be more than willing to cut her precious locks.

It is not uncommon to find salons and estheticians that advertise themselves as “women only.” If a man walked in looking to get his eyebrows groomed and was refused, would he file a complaint? Probably not, because the man can more-than-likely find another esthetician to tame his brows.

Ultimately, the men were not discriminating because they “disrespect” women, a stereotype that a lot of Muslim men have to live with. People seem to forget that many religions preach male dominance, but not everyone that follows that religion abides by this. The men simply refused out of modesty and they have the right to do so.

McGregor is, in my opinion, overreacting. If we are going to learn to live together in Canada, we need to be a little more open-minded. I do agree that for the most part, people need to integrate into Canadian society. However, with the influx of different cultures and religions, these cases will be more common and they aren’t as black and white as they used to be.

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