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Accommodement raisonnable

Reasonable Accommodation in Canada
Reasonable accommodation is a legal solution aimed at correcting discrimination arising from a practice or standard within a public or private enterprise. It is based on the principle of equality among citizens, with the goal of respecting differences. It requires institutions, organizations and individuals to change standards, practices or policies (Moeirin decision [1999], para. 68).

The Legal Duty of Reasonable Accommodation
Reasonable accommodation became a legal obligation following a jurisprudential interpretation proposed by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Simpsons-Sears decision in 1985. In this case, an employee challenged her employer’s decision to require her to work on Saturdays, under threat of dismissal, when her religion prescribed a day of rest on Saturdays. The Court concluded that the employer had a duty to try to reasonably accommodate her, that is, to ensure that the employee’s religious needs were respected, in particular by proposing a rearrangement of the work schedule.

Foundations and Limitations of Reasonable Accommodation
The right to equality is the primary legal basis for reasonable accommodation under section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It prohibits discrimination, that is, a disadvantageous distinction, exclusion or preference for certain persons, based on one or more of the grounds set out in section 15 of the Canadian Charter (e.g. religion). The onus is then on the incumbent decision-maker to accommodate the person(s) for whom the adverse effects of the practice or standard have been demonstrated. It should be noted that this legal solution is limited by the concept of undue hardship (Renaud [1992] 984), which may refer, among other things, to the excessive cost of accommodation, interference with the proper functioning of the organization, or harm to the safety or rights of others. These criteria, which are not exhaustive, must be applied "flexibly and in a manner consistent with common sense" (Bergevin [1994], p. 546) and may thus be used to deny a request for accommodation.

Quebec Context and Public Debate
In 2006, in the Multani decision, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized that a public school in the Montreal area, in the province of Quebec, had a duty to reasonably accommodate a young Sikh student’s right to wear his kirpan to school under certain conditions, not without raising important questions in the Quebec population. Following the controversy generated by this decision, the Commission de consultation sur les pratiques d’accommodement reliées aux différences culturelles was created (also called the Bouchard-Taylor Commission). More recently, in 2012, the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse du Québec developed a virtual guide, which details the procedures to follow, for a public or private manager, in order to respond to a request for accommodation.

Sources :
- Bosset, P. (2007) « Les fondements juridiques et l’évolution de l’obligation d’accommodement raisonnable », in Jézéquel, M. (ed.) Les accommodements raisonnables : quoi, comment, jusqu’où ? Des outils pour tous. Yvon Blais. Cowansville, pp. 3–28 ;
- Bosset, P. (2009) « Accommodement raisonnable et égalité des sexes : tensions, contradictions et interdépendance », in Eid, P. et al. (eds) Appartenances religieuses, appartenance citoyenne. Un équilibre en tension. Québec : Presses de l’Université Laval, pp. 181–206 ;
- Imbeault, J.-S. et al. (2012) Guide virtuel. Traitement d’une demande d’accommodement. Montréal : Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse du Québec ;
- Lefebvre, S. (2008) « Les dimensions socioreligieuses des débats sur les accommodements raisonnables », in McAndrew, M. et al. (eds) L’accommodement raisonnable et la diversité religieuse à l’école publique. Normes et pratiques. Montréal : Fides, pp. 113–133 ;
- Maclure, J. (2009) « Convictions de conscience, responsabilité individuelle et équité : l’obligation d’accommodement est-elle équitable ? », in Eid, P. et al. (eds) Appartenances religieuses, appartenance citoyenne. Un équilibre en tension. Québec : Presses de l’Université Laval, pp. 327–350 ;
- Woehrling, J. (1997) « L’obligation d’accommodement raisonnable et l’adaptation de la société à la diversité religieuse », Revue de droit McGill, 43, pp. 326–401.

D 5 juin 2018    ABertrand Lavoie

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