Religious accommodation: case by case remains

Accommodation for religious reasons will continue to be granted on a case-by-case basis in Quebec. Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée released Wednesday the first guidelines on the subject, which however do not give any specific example of what is reasonable or not.
“We can not do ready-to-wear in this case,” defended Ms. Valley. The long-awaited Liberal government’s guidelines were intended to clarify Act 62 passed last fall and provide guidelines for those who must make decisions in this type of case.

However, they continue to rely on broad principles, not examples. This meant that a request for accommodation could be granted at a Montreal school, but a similar one would not be granted in a Quebec school, for example. For Ms. Vallée, this is not a problem, since each person is unique, and each organization too.

Is imposing a frosted window at a training center reasonable? The minister does not want to comment. Can a teacher take leave for a religious reason? “It depends,” says the minister. Ms. Vallée also does not want to decide on the wearing of the burqa, since the issue of the face discovered, section 10 of the law, is challenged in court.

By July 1, the date of coming into force of certain sections of Bill 62, all public bodies in Quebec will have to appoint a respondent to adjudicate requests for accommodation. Training will be given by the Ministry of Justice to these respondents, so that they better assess the requests. No record of requests for accommodation will be created, so managers will not have examples to rely on.

If a person feels aggrieved, they can, as is the case at this time, appeal the accommodation decision to the Human Rights and Youth Commission. Public decision-makers will have to comply with the case law that will be built on Commission decisions.


Ms. Vallée explained that these guidelines were written in the spirit of the Bouchard-Taylor report, tabled 10 years ago. Messrs. Bouchard and Taylor were consulted during the drafting of the guidelines, so that they correspond to “their wishes”.

These guidelines were decried by the Parti Québécois, which believes that they do not solve anything. “The hot potato will still be on the shoulders of people who will be in front of the person who requests an accommodation,” says MP Agnes Maltais.

According to her, managers are no more equipped now to respond to the 500 requests for accommodation that are made in Quebec schools each year. The PQ believes that the Liberal law is not strong enough and proposes to adopt a real law on secularism if it is brought to power.

“Stéphanie Vallée opens the door to a religious accommodation for the niqab and the burqa if the belief is” sincere “,” complained MP Nathalie Roy of the Coalition avenir Québec. She believes that managers will be even more confused by reading these guidelines. Law 62, “It was a jumble, it’s now a mess!”



– The application must result from the application of section 10 of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

– The application must be serious, based on a sincere belief and formulated in good faith so as not to provide an undue advantage to the applicant.

– There must be equality between men and women and the right of everyone to be treated without discrimination as to their origin, sex, age, beliefs or disability.

– The accommodation requested must allow the state to remain neutral.

– The request must be reasonable and must not impose undue hardship from a financial point of view or have a negative impact on the functioning of the body concerned.

– The plaintiff collaborated to find a solution that satisfies reasonableness. With The Canadian Press

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