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(An excerpt from the Bouchard-Taylor Report on Reasonable Accommodation, concerning the popular presentation of incidents which sparked the accommodation debates...)

1. Prenatal classes at the CLSC de Parc-Extension

Widespread perception: Men who accompanied their spouses to prenatal classes offered by the CLSC de Parc-Extension were excluded from the courses at the request of Muslim women who were upset by their presence.

The reconstructed facts: During the day, the CLSC de Parc-Extension organizes support and information meetings adapted to its clientele in the neighbourhood, which is very poor and mainly comprises immigrants, who have difficulty consulting health services. Prenatal care is one of the topics broached at these meetings. This service is used, above all, by immigrant women, but men are not excluded from it. Evening prenatal courses for expectant mothers and their spouses are offered in the two other CLSCs affiliated with the Centre de santé et de services sociaux de la Montagne.

2. The “directive” from the Société de l’assurance automobile du Quebec

Widespread perception: The management of the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) has ordered its female driving examiners to relinquish their place to a male colleague when Orthodox Jews take their driving test.

The reconstructed facts: An SAAQ “accommodation guide” indicates the internal directives concerning the “exemption from the wearing of headgear for religious or medical reasons when a photograph is taken.” This guide also provides an example of accommodation related to the driving test, i.e. the case of a female Muslim client who wishes to take the practical test with a female driving examiner. The guide explains that the SAAQ can respond to such requests “if a female driving examiner is available at the time.” Otherwise, “an accommodation appointment may be granted at a later date since the centre is not required to reschedule other clients or to upset the test schedule to acquiesce immediatelyto such a request when it is not possible to do so.” The guide also specifies that “reasonable accommodation does not, therefore, apply when the request contradicts another right, e.g. the right to gender equality, the infringement of public order, or the safety of the premises and individuals.”

3. The Mont-Saint-Gregoire sugarhouse

Widespread perception: Muslims arrived one morning at the sugarhouse and demanded that the menu be altered to conform to their religious standard. All of the other customers were therefore obliged to consume pea soup without ham and pork-free pork and beans. In the afternoon, the same Muslims entered the crowded dance hall and interrupted the festivities to recite their prayers. The customers in the dance hall were in a manner of speaking expelled from the sugarhouse.

The reconstructed facts: One week before the outing, a representative of Astrolabe, a Muslim association, met with the sugarhouse’s owners to discuss certain changes to the menu, which would apply solely to the members of the group. The modified menu excluded pork meat but included halal sausage and salami provided and paid for by Astrolabe. This arrangement having been made, the association reserved one of the four dining rooms in the sugarhouse for its exclusive use. On the appointed day, after the meal, 40-odd members of the group moved several tables and chairs in the room reserved for them for a short prayer. The management of the sugarhouse wanted to free up the room as quickly as possible (business was brisk and nearly 300 customers were waiting to be seated) and proposed to those individuals whowished to pray that they use instead the dance hall, which was almost empty at that time. The dance hall can accommodate roughly 650people and 30 customers were then in the room, some of them waiting to be seated in the dining room. Several young girls were dancing to popular music.

The management of the sugarhouse interrupted the music so that the Muslim customers could say their prayers, which took less than 10 minutes. The music then resumed. According to the management, no one was expelled from or asked to leave the dance hall.

4. Certified kosher food

Widespread perception: In the food sector, many firms secretly modify their recipes and invest heavily to make their products conform to Orthodox Jewish religious standards, which occasions a substantial price increase that consumers assume unwittingly. In Quebec, the increase is on the order of several tens of millions of dollars and perhaps more each year. The companies and the rabbis share these revenues.

The reconstructed facts: No authoritative comprehensive study currently exists on the topic. However, we do have at our disposal testimony and partial but reliable overviews that clearly establish that a) the interest that businesses display in kosher certification reflects marketing strategies that cover a portion of the United States; b)the additional costs that consumers must assume are very minimal; c)kosher certification may require companies to modify certain production procedures, e.g. additional washing, but not to modify the composition of their products; and d)rabbis do not profit by certification.

5. Home health care

Widespread perception: On the Sabbath, nurses from the CLSC Therese-de-Blainville must provide home health care for patients from the Boisbriand Hasidic Jewish community. Theymust also comply with a specific dress code when intervening in the community.

The reconstructed facts: The Boisbriand Hasidic community represents 1.7% of the population served by the CLSC de Therese-de-Blainville, while home health care services in this community account for 0.1% of all home health care measures. To be accepted, home health care must be medically prescribed. CLSC nurses are not subject to any dress code. The CLSC has already rejected several accommodation requests and claims that it has for several years maintained very good relations with the Hasidic community.

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