Québec City, May 9, 2018. – As part of the implementation of the Act to foster adherence to State religious neutrality and, in particular, to provide a framework for requests for accommodations on religious grounds in certain bodies (Bill 62) and in accordance with the provisions of the Act, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Québec, Stéphanie Vallée, has presented guidelines for the public bodies concerned to help them analyze the requests they receive.
The Minister points out that each request for accommodation is unique and must be examined on the basis of the context that gives rise to the request. As a result, the guidelines do not set a single framework for analysis but, instead, define the conditions that must be met for the request to be granted.
In response to the need to support public bodies dealing with requests for accommodation on religious grounds, the National Assembly passed the Act to set the conditions that must be taken into consideration:
- The request must result from the application of section 10 of the Charter of human rights and freedoms;
- The request must be serious, in other words based on a sincere belief in the need to comply with a practice that is part of the applicant’s faith or with a religious belief;
- The accommodation requested must be consistent with the right to equality of women and men and the right of every person to be treated without discrimination based on race, colour, sex, gender identity or expression, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status, age, religion, political convictions, language, ethnic or national origin, social condition, a handicap or the use of any means to palliate a handicap;
- The accommodation requested must be consistent with the principle of State religious neutrality;
- The accommodation must be reasonable, in that it does not impose undue hardship with regard to, among other considerations, the rights of others, public health and safety, the proper operation of the body, and the costs involved;
- The person making the request must have cooperated in seeking a solution that meets the criterion of reasonableness.
To facilitate the implementation of the Act, each body must identify the person exercising the highest administrative authority who will have responsibility for dealing with requests for accommodation. The Act specifies that that person must designate an accommodation officer.
The guidelines are posted on the website of Québec’s Ministère de la Justice and will be examined by the competent parliamentary committee.
Sections 11, 13, 14, 20 and 21 of the Act will come into force on July 1, 2018, as provided for in the Act.
Accommodation ensures respect for fundamental individual rights, and prevents situations of discrimination. The objective is not to grant a privilege or preferential treatment to certain individuals, but to ensure that they enjoy genuine equality. Each request must be dealt with on its merits and compared to the conditions set out in the Act. The publication of these guidelines will provide public bodies with guidance on how to make objective, enlightened decisions that respect the fundamental rights of each person concerned.
– Stéphanie Vallée, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Québec.
- The guidelines are posted on the Ministère de la Justice website at www.justice.gouv.qc.ca/en/department/issues/neutrality.