A reasonable accommodation is an adjustment made in a system to "accommodate" or make fair the same system for an individual based on a proven need. Accommodations can be religious, academic, or employment related and are often mandated by law. Each country has its own system of reasonable accommodations. The United Nations use this term in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, even whose refuse is defined to be discrimination. In that convention a reasonable accommodation is defined as:
“Reasonable accommodation” means necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden, where needed in a particular case, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms;—1
In Canada to refer to the theory that equality rights set out in provincial and federal anti-discrimination laws and in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms demand that accommodation be made to various minorities. (The origin of the term "reasonable accommodation" is found in labour law jurisprudence, specifically O'Malley and Ontario Human Rights Commission v. Simpsons-Sears,  2 S.C.R. 536 and is argued to be the obligation of employers to change some general rules for certain employees, under the condition that this does not cause "undue hardship".)
In Quebec, under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the question on what was and will be the national identity has been contested, such as the court decision in Multani v. Commission scolaire Marguerite‑Bourgeoys.
Also controversial was the initial "code of conduct" passed by the municipal council in the town of Hérouxville. The document states that stoning women or burning them alive is prohibited, as is excision (female genital cutting). The motion explains many practices considered normal in Western culture. These standards also state that carrying a weapon to school (a reference to the Sikh ceremonial kirpan), covering one's face (some particular forms of the Muslim veil), and the accommodation for prayer in school will not be permitted. It attests that "Our people eat to nourish the body, not the soul," in reference to Jewish and Muslim dietary laws, and that health-care professionals "do not have to ask permission to perform blood transfusions."
A discussion was started early in 2007 when a YMCA set up clouded windows to shelter ultra-Orthodox Jews who had complained that youngsters had to watch women in gym attire. The subjects of balloting while clothed in a niqab or burka along with the forbidding of hijabs in athletic contests have also produced plenty of debate and conflict in the province.2
An "accommodation" was reached between the provincial government and the Roman Catholic Church on the disposal of underused churches in an overwhelmingly secular province. Local parishes were given the opportunity to develop the buildings as community centres, for example, rather than give way to condominium construction.
Benjamin Rubin, a forward with the Gatineau Olympiques ice hockey team, refused to play several key matches because they fell on a Jewish holiday. Some claimed the Jews would end up forcing the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to reschedule all their matches on Fridays and Saturdays. In fact, Rubin and the Olympiques came to an agreement, and "he will only miss a handful of games." He has since left the team.34
Muslim women wearing the niqab (veil) or burka will be allowed to vote in all upcoming national elections, byelections and referendums without showing their faces, Elections Canada has said.5 The same policy applies to all Canadians under federal Bill C-31, in that photo ID is not strictly required, if two other pieces of acceptable official ID are provided, or another voter vouches for them.
The proclamation has caused much conflict in Quebec, where there is a considerable Muslim community and angry antagonism to this and other classes of accommodation.5 Premier Charest entitled the happening a "bad decision" and said further that the discussion had already occurred in his province, which forbade the practice.5
The national Conservative government challenged Canada's chief electoral officer, Marc Mayrand, to examine his conclusion to permit Muslim women to vote with their faces hidden. The federal Liberals and the Bloc Québécois also requested such a reversal, to demand all voters show their faces in order to vote, even those whose faces are normally covered for religious reasons. They joined other federal and provincial politicians from Quebec who attacked the decision.6
Sarah Elgazzar, an advocate for the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations in Montreal, declared that it is improbable that very many Muslim women will have hidden faces when voting. Elgazzar insisted that women using niqabs usually take them off to distinguish themselves and do not sport them for photo IDs. This fact was echoed by Salam Elmenyawi of the Muslim Council of Montreal.7
There was extensive coverage of related issues in Quebec's news media in 2006 and 2007, which some analysts attributed more to the pressure of competition than to citizen concern. The media play reached such an extent that the premier of the province stated several non-negotiable values, such as "the equality of women and men; the primacy of French; the separation between the state and religion".
Several commentators have said that the debate caused support for the conservative ADQ party to increase, such that it formed the official opposition in the provincial legislature for one term from 2007 to 2008, until the increasing prominence of the global economic crisis relegated reasonable accommodation to an issue of less importance.8
A 2006 examination from Statistics Canada demonstrated that Quebec had the highest newcomer unemployment rate in Canada.citation needed The newest immigrants endured an unemployment ratio of 17.8% in 2006, or almost three times the 6.3% ratio of native-born help. In contrast, joblessness among current newcomers in Ontario was 11% contrasted with 4.4% among the Canadian-born. In British Columbia, the numbers were 9.5% and 3.7%, respectively.
"She notes that it will be some time before she and her colleagues can do enough analysis to say much about the causes of this phenomenon. Nevertheless, Quebec does seem to favour a more extreme version of this (syndrome) than other provinces. Several factors are the devaluation of allegedly inadequate foreign credentials, language tests that have little to do with professional performance and "Canadian experience" requirements that serve as an all-purpose excuse to lock out job applicants who don't already have a job.
"In both Quebec and Canada as a whole, 26 per cent said their biggest employment problem was a demand for Canadian experience and 21 per cent said it was would-be employers who wouldn't recognize foreign credentials or experience."9
Former leader of the Parti Québécois André Boisclair noted, "We're not talking about reasonable accommodation [if] it has nothing to do with public services," Boisclair said. At the same time, Boisclair blamed Premier Jean Charest for pandering to Quebecers who balk at adjustments made for immigrants in civil society.
Mario Dumont, leader of the Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ) said in an interview in La Presse that Quebec needs more immigration for economic and demographic reasons, but that he believes that Quebec had met its limits of immigrant acculturation, and that any further increase in rates of immigration would create ghettos. (At present, the province accepts a smaller percentage of newcomers than elsewhere in Canada.) He criticized Charest for a plan to raise such levels when the Liberal government has cut funds for integration of newcomers into French culture. 'We're a linguistic minority...and immigrants need francization,' Dumont said. 'It's quite a challenge.'11
Current Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois said that Quebec should assume all control over its immigration, not the 60% that it has now under a bilateral agreement with the government of Canada. She also said the province should make the message clear to immigrants that Quebec is a francophone "state", not officially bilingual as is Canada and Quebec's neighbouring province New Brunswick.
Ms. Marois said that Quebec is in need of more immigrants, to offset a low birth rate for future labor needs. She further believes that Quebec is a francophone state in which the rights of the anglophone minority are respected, and where all the inhabitants live in French.12
Charest criticized his political adversaries in the provincial legislature, and blamed them for encouraging "intolerance" in the continuing controversy. He published an open letter in regional dailies, saying he is worried the province's image of openness will diminish outside Quebec.
Dumont's statements about immigration, he said, led to the passing of a code of conduct by the town of Hérouxville that notified Muslims that face veils or stoning women would not be accepted there.13
Premier Jean Charest, citing several instances of "unreasonable" accommodation, advised the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec to appoint a two-man commission in February, 2007, to investigate the issue of reasonable accommodation, and report back by March 31, 2008. The formal title for the Commission14 is the Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences,15 and it is sometimes called the Bouchard-Taylor Commission. Its commissioners are professors Charles Taylor, a well-known federalist philosopher, and Gérard Bouchard, a sovereigntist historian and sociologist. Doubt was cast on Bouchard's fitness to serve as an impartial chair, as before the commission held even one public hearing, he announced in an interview that sovereignty was the solution to calm Franco-Quebeckers' cultural insecurity. Co-chair Taylor stated, however, that Quebecers need to demonstrate the "openness and generosity of spirit" that majorities should have towards minorities.8
The commission conducted conferences in various Quebec regions. The committee listened to individuals, organizations, and experts on Quebec identity, religion, and integration of so-called cultural communities (minority groups).
Before formal proceedings began, Bouchard and Taylor said they found an insecurity in Quebec's pure laine population in focus groups across the province. The commissioners hoped to dispel misconceptions like the one that Muslims were somehow taking over Canadian society, a view that does not match with reality.16
In the United States, federal law requires that reasonable accommodations be made for employment, education, housing, courts, and public venues. The Americans With Disabilities Act, known as ADA, was signed into law on July 26, 1990 and borrowed a large part of material from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. “Title II of the ADA of 1990 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities of all State and local governments.” 17 The ADA changed the way that courts serve individuals with qualified disabilities. The intent of this landmark legislation is to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities and ensure they have the same opportunities available to persons without disabilities. Courts achieve equity by providing reasonable accommodations to disabled people in order to level the playing field.
The ADA is divided into five sections, Titles I-V. Title II provides that “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subject to discrimination by any such entity.”
The US Department of Justice defines A reasonable accommodation as "any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions. Reasonable accommodation also includes adjustments to assure that a qualified individual with a disability has rights and privileges in employment equal to those of employees without disabilities."
Under Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, codified in the United States Code at 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 - 3619, and commonly known as the Fair Housing Act, virtually all housing providers must make reasonable accommodations in their rules, policies, practices, or services under certain circumstances. A reasonable accommodation must be granted when such an accommodation is necessary to afford a prospective or existing tenant with a disability an opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling (including but not limited to apartments, single family homes, and other types of private and public housing) to the same extent as a person who does not have that disability. The Fair Housing Act covers "dwellings," and in many situations that term encompasses such non-traditional housing as homeless shelters and college dormitories. It bears noting that in regard to larger dwellings such as apartment buildings, the right to a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act requires that housing providers grant a requested reasonable accommodation that is necessary to enable a disabled tenant to enjoy an indoor or outdoor common area to the same extent as a non-disabled tenant enjoys such areas.
In regard to reasonable accommodations, there is no requirement that a housing provider initiate the reasonable accommodation process; the Fair Housing Act contemplates that a tenant will approach his or her landlord with a request for a change in the landlord's policies that will reasonably accommodate the tenant's disability. For example, a prospective or actual tenant whose disability requires him to use crutches may request a reasonable accommodation in the form of an assigned parking space close to the entrance of his or her apartment building. If the disability is of a kind covered by the Fair Housing Act, and there is a genuine relationship between the requested accommodation and the disability, and granting the reasonable accommodation would not fundamentally alter the nature of the landlord's operations or impose an undue financial or administrative burden on the landlord, then the landlord must grant the requested reasonable accommodation or else find himself in violation of the Fair Housing Act and liable for substantial civil money penalties as well as payment to the disabled person for the injury suffered by him or her.
The Fair Housing Act is enforced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (commonly known as "HUD"), whose regulations governing reasonable accommodations are found at 24 C.F.R. § 100.204. Sometimes it is easy to tell when (for example) a tenant has a disability and the tenant's reasonable accommodation request must be granted; other times it is not quite so apparent that a tenant suffers from a recognized disability. But a housing provider has an obligation to engage in an interactive process in order to honestly try to figure out whether the requested accommodation is reasonable and must be granted.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Justice have issued a joint statement to provide guidance on the concept of reasonable accommodation. 18
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended (including the amendments made by the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008), overlaps with the Fair Housing Act in its coverage of public housing. As noted on HUD's website: "Public housing was established to provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities."19 Over a million U.S. households live in public housing.
- "Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities". United Nations. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
- "Immigrants source of enrichment to Quebec: group". CTV.ca. 2007-09-11. Retrieved 2007-11-04.
- September 12, 2007. "Quebec Jewish hockey player agrees to play on Sabbath". CBC News. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
- Patriquin, Martin (September 24, 2007). "Not particularly accommodating". Maclean's. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
- Offman, Craig (2007-09-08). "Canadians with faces veiled can vote". National Post.
- "No veils at the polls, feds urge". The Gazette (Montreal). September 8, 2007. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
- "Hey, here's an idea: Let's ask Muslims what they think". The Gazette (Montreal). September 8, 2007. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
- Carroll, Ann (15 August 2007). "Let the debate begin". The Gazette (Montreal). Retrieved 2012-12-14.
- "Wanted: Reasonable accommodation in the job market". The Gazette (Montreal). September 11, 2007. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
- Haroon Siddiqui (September 13, 2007). "One law for one and all, consistently applied". The Star. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
- "Quebec to reconsider integration of immigrants". Canadian Press. August 14, 2007. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
- "Let Quebec control its immigration, Marois says". National Post. August 15, 2007. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
- "Charest lashes out on reasonable accommodation". The Canadian Press. October 30, 2007. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
- "Canadian reality is multicultural". The Star. October 15, 2007. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
- "Quebecers could use a primer on the history of immigration". The Gazette (Montreal). August 22, 2007. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
- "Bouchard and Taylor will have to speak, too". The Gazette (Montreal). August 22, 2007. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
- Civil Rights. (2012). U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Retrieved January 28, 2014, from http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/understanding/index.html
- Enforcement Guidance Reasonable Accommodation And Undue Hardship Under The Americans With Disabilities Act
- Ferguson, Liz (2007-02-03). "A one-year chronology of the province's 'reasonable accommodation' controversy". The Gazette. Retrieved 2007-11-04.
- Heinrich, Jeff (2007-02-12). "'Accommodate Each Other'". The Gazette. Retrieved 2007-11-04.
- Dougherty, Kevin (2007-09-18). "Action démocratique isn't anti-immigration, it's pro-integration: Dumont". The Gazette. Retrieved 2007-11-04.
- Charest enters the fray
- Charest raps opposition's closed-minded view of immigrants
- Church and state find accommodation
- Damaged commission: Reasonable accommodation commissioner already has made up his mind
- Dumont criticizes PQ, Liberals over referendum hang-ups in election campaign
- Immigration hearings aim to sort fact from fiction
- Intolerance costly, says Charest
- L'affaire Herouxville born out of fear: experts
- Media stir up storm over 'accommodation'
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- Minorities excluded from public institution jobs
- MPs feast on non-issue
- Not particularly accommodating: Quebec voters are making fear of visible minorities a hot issue
- Racism vs. reasonable accommodation of minorities sparks debate in Quebec
- Rural Quebec town bans stoning women
- Quebec town spawns uneasy debate
- Quebec towns reject Hérouxville immigrant code
- Segolene Royal speaks to packed Que. auditorium