A new lawsuit has sparked discussion. A Canadian firefighter is claiming his human rights were violated while he was working to fight a wildfire in BC and that he was discriminated against because he was not given vegan food options. This has prompted a complaint to be filed with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario against his employer at the time. 

Ontario firefighter Adam Knauff was deployed to help fight fires near William’s Lake, British Columbia back in 2017. During that time, Knauff says that his human rights were violated as he was not provided with sufficient amounts of vegan food. 

According to Animal Justice in a news release posted yesterday on May 20, Knauff was frequently served meals that contained meat and dairy products, which he cannot eat. He was also served nutritionally inadequate meals with no source of protein. Sometimes, he was given no meals at all. 

Knauff claims that his vegan way of eating is part of his “ethical belief (creed)", according to the release. 

Knauff allegedly tried to improve the situation alongside management as much as he could but after expressing his frustration on not being able to eat, he was sent home, disciplined, and suspended without pay.

In a public statement posted on Animal Justice, Knauff writes that he has been a vegan for over 20 years and that this has impacted every aspect of his life. 

“My beliefs should be respected, including while I am at work fighting forest fires," wrote Knauff. "Veganism has incredible potential to change the world by promoting compassion and respect for others, and this should be celebrated—not punished, shunned or belittled".

According to Global, the ministry responded to Knauff’s claims by denying the allegations. The case is now centered around whether veganism is a form of creed.

The firefighter has since filed the complaint based on the grounds that his creed was not accommodated. 

In his application to the tribunal, Knauff wrote that he mostly ate side dishes and salads. When there were no meals offered, he would drink coffee and eat plain bagels. 

After working 16 hour days for four days with inadequate nutrition, Knauff claims that he began to “feel physically ill and mentally groggy". 

Knauff said that during a big BBQ dinner, vegan burgers were served, however, the chef handled the beef patties before touching the vegan patties and did not change his gloves. 

After Knauff was sent home and disciplined, he was banned from fighting fires outside the province for the remainder of 2017 and all of 2018.

According to Global, the ministry argues that Knauff’s veganism is a lifestyle choice and does not meet the definition of creed. The ministry also argued that it supported the firefighter by accommodating his food restrictions “as if it were a component of his health needs or part of a recognized creed.”

Camille Labchuk, who is the executive director of Animal Justice, hopes to intervene in this case. “The world is changing, and it’s important for employers to respect the sincerely-held beliefs of vegans," she wrote in the news release. "In modern times, secular beliefs like ethical veganism can be just as important to one person as religious beliefs are to another person.”

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