Reasonable Accommodation: For or Against it?

The issue of reasonable accommodation regularly gives rise to debate and questions about the extent of the duty to accommodate (dietary laws, religious symbols, etc.).

Following certain requests from individuals from minority groups –applications that public opinion and certain media considered excessive, disruptive or even contrary to the values of Quebecers—, the term "reasonable accommodation" acquired a pejorative connotation and caused discontent in the population.

On February 8, 2007, a Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences (Bouchard-Taylor Commission) was established by the Quebec government to respond to expressions of discontent that have arisen in the population around "reasonable accommodation." It submitted its report on May 22, 2008.

Opponents accuse reasonable accommodation of harming secularism and instilling a divisive mentality among minorities and thus promoting ghettoization. For its supporters, reasonable accommodation is primarily a measure of inclusion that allows minorities to evade the rules involving direct or indirect discrimination against them. According to them, the wearing or displaying of religious symbols by minorities has no negative effect on the lifestyle of the majority, whom no one wants to convert. Schools, for example, have not become more religious than they were before.

Finally, the concept of reasonable accommodation applies to several grounds of discrimination, including sex, pregnancy, age, disability, and religion. In practice, when you consider all applications in Quebec, it is particularly women and the disabled who have benefited from reasonable accommodation.

Reasonable accommodation must be, in good faith and for all parties involved, a search for compromise solutions that do not harm the relations between different communities. The goal of the philosophy underlying reasonable accommodation is to find a just and equitable solution in a spirit of tolerance.