Week 8 Lecture – February 24, 2014
Citizenship & Reasonable Accommodation BouchardTaylor Report
This commission explores fundamental issues and trigger discussion about equality and social justice.
Example of this: Its my birthday and im having cake and I have invited 10 people.
The way we want to look at this report is pushing us out of formal equality and into substantive.
At the party there may be a mix of adults and children, or diabetics that should not get the same size piece.
Is justice/equality a uniform approach or is it something else? Allocating opportunities and resources.
Facts and Figures
In February 2007 the premier appointed a commission to investigate the issue of reasonable accommodation within a year. The commissioners were a
professor and an academic Charles Taylor and Gerard Bouchard with the ideas of what the society of Quebec should be. There was a growing insecurity
among the French with the concern that muslims in particular were abusing the system to their advantage. One of the key findings in the report is that
there is so much distortion existed between objective facts and subjective thoughts. The perception was that this francophone culture was under threat by
the muslims and forcing the society to accommodate them.
900 briefs were submitted by groups, individuals, associations.
241 people testified during 31 days of hearings.
22 additional regional forums were held. Representation from montreal and smaller ethnicly diverse regions as well. This was crucial b/c it didn’t just
focus on Montreal and gave a more balance view point. 86% of Quebec immigrant population is in the greater montreal area so they needed to look at
the more remote areas around montreal.
3,423 people attended hearings.
13 research projects were commissioned and completed by academic researchers who were experts in their fields.
31 extra focus groups were held, bringing inviduals from different regions in Quebec.
Total cost: $3.7 million.
Budgeted cost: $5.1 million
Crisis of Perception: “accommodation crisis”
Significant number of Quebecers have a negative judgement of accommodation practices – believing that they threaten social order & our most basic
values. Although society felt it was a crisis after investigating the report states that it is a problem but not a crisis.
there was Increasing social & political turmoil over religious accommodation in particular and negative view point of accommodation was pointed out.
Flashpoints that encouraged this report and the commission.
1. Case involving Sikh student & right to wear kirpan (Multani Case) – in a 2006 SCC judgment it struck down an order of a quebec
school of authority that prohibited a sikh child of wearing a kirpan (baptismal knife that they must always wear, symbol of nonviolence, 10cm made of
metal) to school under the charter religious freedom. The charter has precedent over all legislation and the charter has priority over the quebec charter.
The school decided that this kirpan was a weapon and under the safe schools act. The issue is that they allow kirpan just not made of metal and it needs
to be made of metal according to their religion. The SCC ruled against the court of appeal that wanted to prohibit the kirpan at schools. They gave him a
religious right to wear this kirpan to school and the people of quebec are outraged by this decision.
2. Ontario: religious mediation & family law Muslims in Canada feel the obligation to obey Sharia and this Is a law used in many countries
and in 1991 the government passed the arbitration act. Ontario was in a saving mode and were looking at ways to ease backlog at court systems. This
act allowed individuals to solve issues through mediation rather then courts that included religiously based tribunals and their decisions would be
recognized by regular courts and had binding powers. Some muslim groups were excited about this and having their decisions and culture imposed in
dealing with legal matters. Considerable resistance to this idea began to surface against government recognition of sharia in Ontario. Some objections were legitimate and others
were based on misinformation and islamphobia. In terms of legitimate concerns such as women, that men and women were not equal under sharia law
and women were going to be off far worse in divorce matters in sharia law. Under this law women can only inherit half of the man and had to give children
to the father.
The Ontario government then faced Ontario courts to recognize this decision or ban all religious accommodation in mediating legal issues in tribunals.
The premier decided to removed all recognition of religious tribunals.
Quebec media: “active” role in public’s misperception. One of the reasons quebec thinks accommodation is a problem is because of the media and the
commission noted this in their report and noted a disconnect between the number of accommodation being granted and the amount of accommodation
very few amounts of accommodation were coming up at the courts but the media blew it out of proportion.
The media was making the issue of accommodation a bigger issue to society while the issues of it were actually declining.
Rightwing Quebec political party was also fuelling discontentment & misconceptions and began talking of the issue of reasonable accommodation.
Much of Mario’s talk demonstrated immigrants being a bad aspect in society and that Canada gives them everything and instead of them accommodating
into Quebec we have to accommodate them. His message is making society and the media believing they are bending over backwards to accommodate
Crisis of Perception: examples
1. Misconception/allegation: Men who accompanied their spouses to prenatal classes by a local community centre were excluded from
the course at the request of Muslim women.
Fact: men are not excluded from these prenatal classes. And this was a miscommunication found by the report.
2. Misconception/allegation: Government health care providers went into homes of the jewish they must comply with a specific dress
code when intervening with the Hasidic Jewish community.
Fact: Government health care providers (ie nurses) are not subject to any dress code and that this never happened.
Are these media claims accurate? The media was leading the charge against these cases.
Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences
Commission was appointed In response to public discontent/anxiety concerning reasonable accommodation. Many publicized cases had lead
Quebecers to adopt a negative viewpoint of accommodation and these cases focus on accommodation and adjustments being perceived as illegitimate
or a threat to the quebec societies culture. Much of this dissatisfaction came from the French origin Quebecers. On the one hand the English speaking
community understood and recepted to the accommodation well. The French speaking which was most of society and were twice as likely to feel that
accommodation makes society go overboard to accommodate immigrants.
Debate on RA (reasonable accommodation) = a symptom of a more basic problem concerning the sociocultural integration model adopted by Que in
Quebec society “sufficiently divided at present”
Must seek to reduce splits & tensions, not exacerbate them
Need for compromise, negotiation & balance to bring this issue under countrol.
“Reasonable Accommodation” – an adjustment or change in a system as a way of accommodating or making a
system fair for an individual based on proven need. May be for religious, educational, labour needs etc. and are
often mandated by law and each country has their own system of reasonable accommodations.
This concept Stems from jurisprudence in the realm of labour law. Its argued that for employers to make changes for employees is absolutely required.
Ex. Changes to who works on the Sabbath day.
R.A is A form of arrangement or relaxation of a rule aimed at ensuring respect for right to equality and essentially it seeks to combat indirect
discrimination that infringes peoples rights and equality.
Means of combating indirect discrimination which following strict application of an institutional standard, infringes on the indiv’s right to equality. More broadly (more informal): all forms of arrangements allowed by managers, in public or private institutions in respect of students, patients,
customers, & so on.
Commissioners Report endorses this more creative, less formal response to accommodation requests.
the need to dejudicialize & decentralize solutions
A citizen approach to managing of differences with common sense rather then using litigation and court services to do so.
Rationale of RA
in any Pluralistic societies (2 or more cultures interacting) the question of how to cultivate diversity will emerge & the need to manage differences arises.
In these societies there is an immediate need to manage differences and this can be done in two ways.
Can be done by either:
1. Domination & submission approach (authoritarian model) – the most powerful group in society dominates so that other groups are forced to assimilate
into this culture and the dominate group eliminates this submissive group. Ex. Aboriginals
2. Harmonization (better approach, another word for accomodation) – management of coexistence based on respect for diversity. An attempt to mediate