A single Toronto dad was told that he would be unable to watch his 9-year-old daughter's swim lessons due to other student's religious practices. Some of the girls in the group swim lessons were Muslim and are not allowed to have non-family member males see them in swimsuits. The father had enrolled his daughter in a free swim program through the pool's website and was not made aware of the fact he would not be able to observe the lessons. The father enrolled his daughter in the girls only class because she did not have many friends, and he hoped the class would help her make some new ones.
The public pool has a history of providing female-only swim programs to accommodate for cultural and religious practices and requirements, with similar accommodations for all-male swim classes. The pool also offers co-ed classes which allow parents of the opposite sex to watch the lessons.
The desire by the pool to provide for the needs of a diverse community is a good one. There are strict cultural and religious practices which would otherwise prohibit participation in the activity if not for special allowances. However, the pool should make such requirements clear to parents when enrolling their children in such classes, particularly for a free one. A parent has a right to supervise their minor child and if allowances are made for one group, then the situations of single parents should be taken into account as well.
At what point does the public sphere become too accommodating for the diversity within a community? Laws which prohibit displays of religious devotion go too far, but a secular public space such as a community center is a place where an equalization occurs and private, personal practices should not interfere with the community at large. While there are cultural and religious practice which prohibit certain activities, those are choices by members of the community. And it is a choice to take a swim lesson at a public, secular space, rather than private swim lessons at a cultural center who abide by similar practices.