Libertywatch June 2015

Criminal Justice

Police & Corrections criticised over prison death

A Coroner has criticised police and the Department of Corrections for their roles in the death of remand prisoner Jai Davis at a South Otago jail.

The 30-year-old died in a prison cell in February 2011 from a suspected drug overdose after arriving at Otago Corrections Facility near Milton with drugs concealed internally.

In his report, Coroner David Crerar said it would be "in the public interest" for the Independent Police Complaints Authority (IPCA) to investigate the role of police in the circumstances of Davis' death. 

He said the IPCA could specifically investigate the receipt by police of information about Davis prior to his admission to the Corrections facility; the actions of police while he was in custody; and the police investigation into the death.

He also recommended the circumstances of the death be investigated by the Health and Disability Commissioner.

Mr Crerar described the actions of Corrections staff at the Milburn facility as "insufficient''.  He also said the police investigation into Davis' death was not "conducted in a timely manner,'' and "cursory and flawed". He panned them for their initial handling of Mr Davis at the time of his arrest and during the subsequent investigation into his death.

Mr Crerar stated that, "Too often during the inquest hearing a witness would state that they could not recall a specific because the death was 'so long ago'. My inquiry has been hindered by the failure of the police to conduct the necessary (and prompt) enquiries into a death as they are required to do.

"The police were requested by me to conduct enquiries and were reminded of their obligations on many occasions.''

Southern District Police today acknowledged the Coroner's findings, saying communication between police, Corrections and the prison had been improved.

Otago Daily Times 23/6/15



Toddler with cerebral palsy excluded from theatre because of walker

A three-year-old disabled girl was denied entry to New Plymouth's Showplace because of her walking frame.

Cerise Lawn said she took daughter Ariana, who suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy, to the TSB Showplace for a play-centre outing but was publicly shamed when told her daughter could not enter the theatre until the walker was ditched.

Lawn said the group had booked tickets in advance and mentioned Ariana used a frame but when they began to enter Ariana was stopped by a female staff member and told to go no further.

Lawn told the woman she was happy to fold down the walker or remove it once Ariana was seated but the staff member would not budge.

"I felt discriminated against. I just want her to be treated equally, she should be treated the same as everyone else."

Venue manager Megan Brown said the situation was unfortunate and apologised for the treatment Lawn received.

"We really do pride ourselves on being a venue for anybody and it's really disappointing for this to happen. It's the polar opposite of what we try to achieve," she said.

"It's rare but we take it seriously, we need to ensure this doesn't happen again."

Brown said the volunteer worker had mis-communicated fire regulations which state "loose furniture," including walking frames, prams or baby capsules, could not stay in the theatre during a performance.

Ariana should have been allowed to use the walker to get to her seat, before it was removed during the performance and returned to her so she could exit, Brown said.

Training guidelines would be looked at in the coming months and how to better deal with similar circumstances in the future would be discussed, Brown said.

In the past the Showplace had worked with a variety of organisations to better understand accessibility concerns and it was also a member of Arts Access Aotearoa's Taranaki network, she said.

Lawn said parents with disabled children wanted them to feel included and no different to other kids.

Taranaki Daily News 5/6/5


People with disabilities deserve a fair go at work

Tracking Equalities at Work research released by the Human Rights Commission shows that New Zealand’s disabled population has nearly double the level of unemployment than non-disabled people. Disability Rights Commissioner, Paul Gibson says that it is a human right to work and clearly New Zealand needs to do better in this area.

Disabled people have higher rates of unemployment and lower labour force participation compared to their non-disabled peers at every age and either sex. They also have lower incomes than non-disabled people. Disabled Māori unemployment rate is 17 percent but for disabled European New Zealanders it is 7 percent.

“I am concerned to see the compounding disadvantage of ethnicity and disability. I would like to see Government prioritise achieving human rights for disabled Māori so that they have a fair go like everybody else,” Paul Gibson said.

This research also highlighted the lack of data being collected about disabled people and employment. The Commissioner says that this missing information means lack of measurements, lack of goals for employment, and clearly no decent employment strategy for assisting people with disabilities into work. 29/6/15



“Education is a basic human right” – Human Rights Commission

The Human Rights Commission is concerned at allegations officials are trying to access information held by schools to locate and deport students’ family members.

“Education is a basic human right, the most powerful tool we can give New Zealand children no matter who they are, where they live or who their parents are,” said Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy.

“We’re concerned that requiring schools to disclose personal details may lead to children being kept away from school. Education is fundamental to the well-being and development of the child and every child should be able to enjoy their right to an education”.

In 2010, the Immigration Act was changed to enable children without legal immigration status to attend school in order to better reflect New Zealand’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Human Rights Commission and various other agencies including the Office of the Children’s Commissioner worked together to help make this happen.

Dame Susan says the Commission is unable to speculate on the lawfulness of the alleged operations that ultimately fall under the jurisdiction of the Privacy Commissioner and other agencies, such as the Office of the Ombudsman.

“Our sole focus here is the potential impact on the well-being of the children. It could have the unintended consequence of those children not attending school for fear of the impact it will have on their family.”

The Commission encouraged officials to work with families and other agencies to resolve these concerns. 14/6/15


Legal dispute over Auckland school and Asperger's student abandoned

A legal fight between a secondary school and a student with Asperger's Syndrome has been abandoned in the Court of Appeal, after the court dismissed the appeal "as moot".

The case had centred on a child's right to an education versus a school's right to prevent disruption.

Green Bay High School was trying to overturn a 2014 judicial review that ruled a boy with Asperger's Syndrome should be allowed to return to school.

The boy was expelled after scuffling with a teacher over a skateboard when he was 14, in 2013. The school wanted to keep the child from returning to the classroom.

But the case was ruled moot when it was revealed the student had given up on returning to Green Bay High School, choosing instead to move to Kerikeri where he was being educated outside of mainstream education. 

It was thought the hearing could have had implications for schools nationwide.

While the court agreed the issues raised in the case were important, the Court of Appeal was not the appropriate place to discuss such issues.

"It is well-established as a general principle that appellate courts will not determine appeals where there is no longer a live issue between the parties," the court decision read.

"We accept that issues relating to discrimination against students with disabilities in the education sector are of considerable public importance … [but] the appropriate process for the resolution of issues of this nature is for them to be raised in the first instance before the Human Rights Review Tribunal which is constituted with its own specialist jurisdiction under the Human Rights Act." 5/6/15



Human Rights Commission calls for more equality in the workplace

The Human Rights Commission wants to give women and minorities special treatment to level the playing field in the workplace.

A new report reveals women, Pacific people and the disabled are among the most disadvantaged groups when it comes to pay, employment and leadership positions.

Women occupy just 14 per cent of positions on private boards, and 19 per cent of overall senior management roles.

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue said the "totally pathetic" numbers were moving at a snail's pace and in some cases going backwards.

She is calling upon the Government to apply special measures to promote under-represented groups into senior leadership positions.  

She also wants the local stock market operator to follow Australia's lead by forcing listed companies to report on their gender diversity policy.

Blue stopped short of calling for a quota system, saying there would be a huge backlash and New Zealand was not ready for it.

She called on each Government department to annually publish plans to eliminate any gender or ethnic pay gaps, which would expose both the best and worst organisations.

The special measures adopted could include internal targets, more balanced recruitment boards, transparent promotion pathways and training to identify unconscious bias.

The Commission's web-based interactive report allows analysis of equality across four key aspects of work, broken down by gender, ethnicity, age, and disability.  

It shows men earn more than women across the board, and Europeans more than other ethnicities.

Middle-aged white men had a median hourly rate of $28.77, fully two thirds more than Pacifica women of the same age earning just $17.32.

Of those still stuck on the minimum wage by age 25 or older, 66 per cent were women.

Blue said the Government needed to implement equal pay for work of equal value by 2020. 28/6/15



Compensation for dead Auckland toddler's family unlikely

Lawyers say a gap in New Zealand law means the Auckland family of dead toddler Emma-Lita Bourne is unlikely to get compensation following their tragic loss, despite a breach of international human rights.

The coroner's report into the toddler's death says the poor condition of the state house in the South Auckland suburb of Otara was a contributing factor to Emma-Lita's death.

Human rights lawyer Michael Bott said under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) everyone has a right to decent housing.

The covenant states everyone has the right to "an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions".

In this case that right was breached, he said.

New Zealand signed onto the ICESCR on 28 December 1978. However, due to New Zealand parliament electing to maintain is sovereignty it can pass laws that are inconsistent with its international obligations, Bott said. 5/6/15


LGBT Rights

Tamaki 'not alone in anti-gay views'

A religious expert claims controversial preacher Brian Tamaki is not the only Christian group leader promoting anti-gay views.

The Destiny Church leader has been in the headlines once again after stating at the "Born in the Fire conference" that "gaypower" is the biggest problem facing the world, and is making an entire generation of children bisexual.

"Gaypower, that spirit is so powerful it's changing political institutions and half of them don't even want it, but they're forced to," Tamaki said.

Peter Lineham, a historian of religion at Massey University, believes conservative Christianity is becoming increasingly divided from mainstream society, and is exhibiting "fear, and nervousness, and uncertainty about the way the world's going."

He said some other New Zealand churches are presenting similar anti-gay messages without being called out.

New Zealand Herald 1/6/15


Refugee officially a woman in NZ but not for Registrar of Marriages.

Despite being officially recognised as a woman in New Zealand, a transgender Kiwi has been told she cannot use her "female name" to register her marriage, but was told to use her birth name, Luis Alexander, instead of Eliana.

Ms Rubashkyn said she wanted to use Eliana because she wanted her "male identity" to be a thing of the past.

"I guess it's one of those things for people like me … our past will always come back to haunt us," she said.

Ms Rubashkyn, originally from Colombia, came to New Zealand as a refugee in May last year.

She was issued with a New Zealand certificate of identity stating her gender as "female" although she had not had sex change surgery.

She chose to move to New Zealand only after she received assurance her gender of preference could be recorded in her travel documents without the need for surgery.

A Department of Internal Affairs spokesman said Ms Rubashkyn was asked for her birth name as a matter of record.

"To maintain public trust and confidence in the marriage register we need to link the names of married parties back to their birth name," he said. "This is to ensure we can be certain of their birth identity no matter how many times the person's current name changes."

The spokesman said Ms Rubashkyn's current name and status as bride would be recorded in the department's records.

Asked if Ms Rubashkyn's marriage would be considered a same-sex one, Statistics NZ spokesman Colin Marshall said it depended on what they wrote on their form.

"People self-identify," Mr Marshall said.

"It would depend entirely on what the person wrote on the application forms to marry."

New Zealand Herald 4/6/15


Hamilton same-sex couple denied couples deal

A Hamilton gay couple being denied a couples’ two-for-one deal at a raceway park has raised questions over how New Zealand treats same-sex partners.

The incident involved Hamilton couple Amiria Te Nana and her partner Lava Leituala being denied a two-for-one promotion at Hamilton's Daytona Raceway because they were not man and woman.

Te Nana and the group left the raceway and later posted a complaint to the business's website. She received a response stating:

"Look we are very sorry but the promotion is for a spouse or partner, which in our thinking is husband and wife or girlfriend and boyfriend. We have a lot of people who try it on and say they are a same sex couples and they are not. 

"The rule is male and female only end of story. If I let one do it I have to let everyone do it and that was not what the promotion was about."

Human rights commissioner Richard Tankersley said it was unlawful for businesses to treat people differently because of their sexual orientation.

"Anyone who believes that they have been discriminated against in this way may come to the Human Rights Commission for advice", Tankersley said.  

The raceway has since said it planned to scrap the policy and open it up as a "straight two for one deal". The owner said he would also like to apologise. 18/6/15


NZ told to fund more transgender operations

Labour MP Louisa Wall says New Zealand needs to fund more transgender operations.

Ms Wall, who introduced the legislation that legalised same-sex marriage, said the transgender community needed more support than it was currently getting from the Government.

She said more than 60 people were on the waiting list for sex reassignment surgeries, and action needed to be taken.

"These are people who are wanting access to what is a medical procedure, who can't in New Zealand because we don't have the surgeons."

Ms Wall said the Government was supposed to fund three male-to-female operations and one female-to-male operation every two years, but none had been done for three years.

She said New Zealand needed to recognise discrimination on gender identity in its human rights legislation.

Ms Wall said the only legal barriers still facing New Zealand's gay community targeted the transgender and intersex people.

Ms Wall said under the current Human Rights Act it was illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation but gender identity should be added.

"The Crown's position is that it's already in legislation under the definition of sex, but for the community they actually want to see definitions that they think describe them in our legislation."

Ms Wall said New Zealand still had a long way to go to meet the needs of the transgender and intersex community 28/6/15



New cyberbully law 'too vague'

New Zealanders will need to be careful about what they post online under a new wide-reaching law, or risk criminal charges over communications deemed deliberately harmful.

Justice Minister Amy Adams has said the criminal provisions in the new law are there for only the most serious cases, and the threshold for prosecution is very high.  Children under 14 can't be charged with cyberbullying and those aged 14 to 16 will go into the youth justice system.

"In Australia, which has had a similar offence for more than a decade, only eight prosecutions of 300 have been for under 18-year-olds," Ms Adams said.

Other provisions are aimed at removing offending material from social media sites as quickly as possible.

A complainant will not be able to obtain any redress unless they can show that the offending digital communication has caused harm. But harm has been given an alarmingly expansive definition by the statute. It is defined as anything that causes a complainant "serious emotional distress.”

This is a broad notion and opponents believe this vagueness in the legislation could mean ordinary internet users could be caught up, or free speech curtailed.

Otago Daily Times 30/6/15



Judge critical of police after botched Red Devils gang operation

The case against the Red Devils gang in Nelson was dropped because of possible "serious criminal offending" by police, involving a fake search warrant and arrest of an undercover officer, during the investigation.

The Crown officially dropped the case on Thursday, opting not to appeal a High Court ruling that resulted in all but six charges being thrown out of court because evidence for them was improperly obtained by police.

There were originally 148 charges against 21 defendants, who were patched members or associates of the Red Devils Motorcycle Club in the Nelson area.

Justice David Collins said a fake search warrant and prosecution of an undercover officer during the investigation, known as Operation Explorer, amounted to "significant misconduct" and possible "serious criminal offending".

He said that allowing the trials to continue, based on improperly obtained evidence, would undermine public confidence in the justice system.

Police reviewed their policy and practices following the earlier High Court decision in October 2012, and had implemented changes "to ensure that police and the courts are not put in this position again".


Nelson Mail 13/6/15


Authority endorses Police in first use of ‘sponge round’

An Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) investigation has endorsed the way in which the Police used a new tactical option, known as a ‘sponge round’, when they were faced with apprehending an aggressive and threatening man.

The sponge round is fired from a 40mm gas launcher. It provides Police with an additional tactical option in dangerous situations. It is intended to incapacitate an aggressive, non-compliant person and will commonly cause bruising rather than significant or long-lasting injury. Until now this tactical option has only been available to the Police Special Tactics Group and a small number of Armed Offenders Squads.

IPCA Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers, said although Mr McDonald did not sustain any serious injuries during the incident the Authority was asked by Police to undertake an independent investigation given it was the first time the sponge round had been deployed by New Zealand Police.

“Police are now planning to make the sponge round available to all Armed Offender Squad groups throughout the country, which the Authority supports,” Sir David said. 22/6/15


Grandmother handcuffed after refusing to leave house during flood

Police are defending their arrest and handcuffing of a 67-year-old grandmother who refused demands to evacuate her flood-threatened home in Waitotara.

Another resident, a 69-year-old man said he was elbowed in the head and knocked to the ground when he also told an officer he was not ready to leave his home.

Taranaki area commander Inspector Keith Borrell said police were responding to an emergency and were facing a dangerous situation in darkness as the Waitotara River burst its banks.

He confirmed that one woman was arrested under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 after refusing to leave her property, but was later released without charge.

Roma Brewer and Dot Bowlin both claimed they were physically assaulted by police after objecting to being forced from their houses as flood waters began to rise on Saturday.

Other residents support their claims, saying police were heavy-handed and should have listened to locals who knew the area and what to expect.

Locals said they were monitoring the river and knew the danger signs to watch for.

Bowlin said she was pleading with police to let her stay at her house, which sits on one of the highest points in the township, so she could keep an eye on her animals when a young officer allegedly threw her to the ground and handcuffed her, aggravating an arm injury.

Taranaki Daily News 23/6/15



Skoolbag app gaining popularity in New Zealand amid privacy concerns

An app that alerts parents to school emergencies, and tells them the date of the college disco, is gaining in popularity, despite warnings from privacy watchdogs about the safety of the data it collects.

Skoolbag is the brainchild of an Australian parent Andrew Tsousis, who wanted a better way of communicating with his child's school.

It is now used by 34 schools in New Zealand and 2000 worldwide, and provides information on cancellations, school notices, school contact information, timetables, absences and parent contact details.

However, the Australian privacy commission recently warned of the dangers of the inappropriate disclosure of the mountains of data being collected by Skoolbag and apps like it.

The New Zealand Privacy Commission was unable to comment, but privacy commissioner John Edwards has previously expressed concerns about how apps collected personal information without clear privacy policies. He signed an open letter last year that raised fears about "removing the ability for individuals to be meaningfully informed when making decisions about … their personal information". 16/6/15


New Zealand’s privacy law is outdated – expert

New Zealand’s outdated online privacy laws are leaving consumers in the dark and retailers unprepared for changing international standards, a leading cyber-security expert says.

Under New Zealand’s current laws, if a company is hacked or accidentally releases consumers’ personal data (such as personal details, medical history or credit card information) there is no legal requirement that they tell consumers affected.

This means that customers’ personal data, including credit card details, tax information and medical histories, could be being passed around online without their knowledge.

The managing director of Delta Insurance Ian Pollard, says New Zealand’s standards for data-security are falling behind the rest of the world, and this puts New Zealanders are at greater risk of having their personal information leaked.

“New Zealand ranks fourth in APEC (The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum) for cyber attacks, we simply cannot afford to be complacent on this issue,” says Pollard.

Pollard says the USA is currently one of the most advanced legally, with 47 out of 50 states already having mandatory breach notification laws in place, and there are moves towards putting federal laws in place to govern the entire country.

Australia has announced that mandatory notification legislation will be introduced later this year, changing the current status quo where it is recommended but not legally required.

New laws for the European Union are also on the way, scheduled for implementation in late 2015 to early 2016 thanks to updates to the EU Privacy and Human Rights Law.

Existing laws have served New Zealand well, Pollard says, but they are in need of an update to reflect the changing online landscape.

“The New Zealand Privacy Act was written in 1993 to tackle the problems of the time, but the modern cyber-security environment and proliferation of data have grown in ways that were difficult to predict,” he says. 18/6/15


Facebook, privacy laws, & impact on the workplace

While Facebook continues to produce evidence for employers seeking to prove employee wrongdoing, a recent New Zealand case demonstrates that privacy settings can’t be ignored.

In a recent ruling, the New Zealand Human Rights Review Tribunal ordered an employer pay an ex-employee a hefty $168,000 after it wrongfully accessed her Facebook page and maliciously distributed its contents to her new employer.

After she had resigned her post with NZCU, the company’s management team caught wind that a picture of a cake decorated with an insulting message to NZCU had been posted on Ms Hammond’s Facebook page, but despite the best efforts of NZCU, Ms Hammond’s privacy settings meant that only Facebook “friends” could view the image.

NZCU pressured a junior staff member, who was a Facebook friend of Ms Hammond, to log into her Facebook account and take a screenshot of the picture for NZCU. Upon receiving the private image, NZCU, then emailed the photo to local employment agencies
 and disclosed the photo to her current employer while placing pressure on them to terminate Ms Hammond’s employment.

In considering these actions, the Tribunal found that NZCU breached its privacy obligations to Ms Hammond that requires an agency that holds personal information to refrain from disclosing that information.

National Law Review 18/6/15


Police finally release Banks interview

Police have finally released the formal interview carried out with former MP John Banks almost three years after it was requested.

The three-hour long interview was a key part of the police investigation into allegations Mr Banks had failed to file an accurate electoral return after losing his bid to become the first Auckland supercity mayor in 2010.

Police released a summary of its initial investigation and then affidavits gathered from witnesses, but resisted releasing the transcript of the interview with Mr Banks.

Police balked at providing the interview even after being ordered to by the Ombudsman, Professor Ron Paterson, in December 2013, saying it could interfere with the upcoming private prosecution action. The interview with police was aired in court, but Justice Edwin Wylie refused to allow access to the court file for a copy of the transcript.

The Court of Appeal then threw out the conviction against Mr Banks' case, which also appeared to clear the way for releasing the transcript. Police, which had no role in the case at that stage, said it intended waiting 20 more days in case there was an appeal against the court's decision.

The Ombudsman said Mr Banks had opposed the release with his lawyer, arguing it would encourage "irresponsible commentary".

The Ombudsman said it was not a valid reason for refusing to supply the information when the test to be applied was whether it was in the "public interest", and those standing for or in public office could expect to lose a degree of privacy. He said an MP with legal representation interviewed about "alleged irregularities in respect of electoral funding donations" could not expect a "high expectation of privacy".

"Given the public disquiet about the integrity of the fundraising for the 2010 Auckland Mayoral election, without direct access to Mr Banks' statement, the public will not be adequately informed."

Otago Daily Times 23/6/15



Racial bias in mortgage lending exposed

Researchers say they are shocked to find an apparent racial bias by mortgage lenders against Māori people who "look Māori

The Auckland University research has found that a Māori person who rates 5.55 out of 7 on a scale of Māori-like personal appearance is twice as likely not to own their own home as a European-looking Māori rating only 1 on the scale, after allowing for all other factors including income and age.

The effect of personal appearance on home ownership was roughly as strong as the effect of income – a result that shocked the researchers.

"We were absolutely stunned," said psychologist Dr Chris Sibley, who leads the NZ Attitudes and Values Study.

Co-author Dr Carla Houkamau, a social psychologist in the university's business school, said: "It's quite shocking when you are researchers and you are looking at results and you think, no, it can't be right, surely it can't be based on how people look!"

In their paper in US-based open access journal Plos One, they wrote: "What our analyses are picking up on is a statistical signal that is most likely to have been produced by a systematic bias in lending by banking institutions over a fairly long period of time."

Mike Pero, the founder of New Zealand's biggest mortgage broking company and son of a Cook Islands Maori, said: "That would be a fair comment."

"It's totally not what we would want to have as a nation," he said.

"Put it this way: if there's an application, all things being equal, and it was a tight one, if it had a Maori name there as a couple it might be enough [to reject it]. It's probably something that's not written down, but it would be a possibility that that could be prejudice as well.

"You'll never prove it, but I know through my own life, I'm 55 years of age, I know there have been certain circumstances where people prejudge you on your name."

Only 28 per cent of all Maori aged 15 and over owned their own homes in the 2013 Census — half the European rate of 57 per cent and behind Asians (35 per cent), although ahead of Pacific people (18.5 per cent).

New Zealand Bankers' Association chief executive Kirk Hope said racial stereotyping was not in the banks' or their customers’ interests especially within such a competitive part of the banking sector.

New Zealand Herald 18/6/15



Call to increase New Zealand’s refugee quota

The Human Rights Commission has repeated calls to increase New Zealand’s refugee quota.

Speaking at the National Refugee Resettlement Forum today Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy said:

“In years to come when our children ask us what we did as the world faced its worst humanitarian crisis in history: What will we say to them? Will we make excuses? Will we wish we did something?”

“How can we honestly defend a 30-year track record of doing nothing but the bare minimum?”

Dame Susan says increasing New Zealand’s annual refugee quota as well as providing a flexible humanitarian response from time to time is the right thing to do.

Dame Susan said New Zealand “can no longer play our part on the world stage with mana or with dignity if we do not do the right thing at home: human rights begin at home.”

“We have millions of displaced people in the world – most of them children. This is New Zealand’s opportunity to lead by example as a Security Council member. We must pull our weight as a responsible, humane global citizen.” June 3/6/15


Religious Discrimination

Muslim boy denied home stay in Japan

The Human Rights Commission has weighed in on the case of a Dunedin boy rejected for an exchange trip to Japan because he is Muslim.

Sharif Steel, 15, had hoped to spend a year in Japan staying with a host family but his application was rejected due to his religious beliefs

The Human Rights Commission encouraged the New Zealand student exchange organisation to contact their Japanese counterparts and work towards resolving an incident.

"We've been in touch with the organisers of this student exchange programme and encouraged them to engage with their counterparts in Japan to address the problems that have arisen," said Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy.

"We also encouraged them to work with Sharif and his family to resolve this incident.

"Student exchanges are primarily about intercultural education and a key part of intercultural relations is to keep talking and to sort things out."

Religious discrimination in New Zealand is unlawful under the Human Rights Act.

New Zealand Herald 9/6/15


Sikh 'embarrassed' after being barred from club over turban

A Sikh real estate agent says he faced religious discrimination when he was barred from a club because he was wearing a turban.

Gurpreet Singh, was prevented from entering the Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club for lunch with colleagues on Tuesday.

Singh and his workmate tried to explain to club staff that the turban was part of his faith and not something he could take off.

"But they said 'No, we have this policy and we are sticking to it,'" he said. "Instead of arguing we just left."

Singh said he was "embarrassed" by the incident. He had been in New Zealand for seven years and this was the first time his turban had caused problems.

"Turbans are recognised in New Zealand as a cultural item. If we go for a passport, or drivers licence, or to the bank, we're allowed to wear the turban."

Singh said he did not think a club or restaurant should be different, and the policy needed to be changed.

He lodged a complaint of religious discrimination with the Human Rights Commission on Wednesday.

This is not the first time the Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club's no-headwear policy has brought it into conflict with religious groups.

In 2009 another turban-wearing Sikh, Karnail Singh, was barred from entering for the same reason. He also complained to the Human Rights Commission, but the Cosmopolitan Club voted to uphold its ban.

The same year a Muslim international student was stopped from dining at the club because she was wearing a hijab, or religious headscarf.

Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club President John Stevens said the rule was not religious discrimination.

"It's just the standard rule we've had in our club for the last 50 years."

Stevens said the rule was put in "to stop people coming in with beanies, with caps, with hoodies and this sort of stuff."

"If they opened it up to one they'd have to open it up to everybody, so they just put in a blanket rule that no headwear was to be worn within the club.

The rule was considered at a club AGM five years ago, after the Human Rights Commission said the club needed to consider changing it. Members voted unanimously in favour of retaining the rule.

Stevens said he would raise the rule again at the next AGM, but that was not until next year.

Prime Minister John Key also weighed in to the debate at a press conference at Auckland's Viaduct Harbour.

He said the Cosmopolitan Club's barring of Singh was "very disappointing".

"I'd like to think culturally we're a very considerate society. People wear turbans because of their religious beliefs … and I think we should try and be more inclusive of those, and recognising those. 18/6/15