New moon upheld as religious holiday

Jeff Lee CanWest News Service Friday, July 16, 2004

VANCOUVER -- Whenever there is a new moon, Harold Derksen must be given the day off from work. So says the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

In a ruling released this week, the tribunal declared that Myert Corps Ltd. of Abbotsford violated Derksen's religious rights when it denied his request for time off to celebrate his religion, which requires him to refrain from working under a new moon.

A member of the Christian Churches of God, Derksen would likely have been fired from his $33,000-a-year job because of poor work performance, but the tribunal awarded him $8,700 plus interest for back pay, injured dignity and wages lost to fight his case.

The church's adherents celebrate five holy days a year and weekly "dark to dark" Sabbaths starting Friday evening and ending at the evening's nautical twilight on Saturday. Each lunar new moon, which occurs every 29.5 days, is also a cause for celebration, resulting in a strict observance that no work or trade is done for which money is paid, Junker wrote.

Derksen went to work for Myert on July 2, 2002, as a project co-ordinator in its youth job directions program. Myert is a for-profit company that specializes in programs for challenged youth, and is in part funded by the federal government's Human Resources Development Canada.

Myert gave Derksen one day off as he requested in July 2002, shortly after he was hired, but refused a second request.

Derksen took the day off anyway and he was fired.

He remained unemployed for a year, and after retraining at Kwantlen College, was hired at a community resources society.

© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2004