2. Diversity as Description
3. Diversity and the Public Sphere in Canada
3.2. Reasonable Accommodation
3.3. (Non)Religious Identity
4. Case Studies
4.1. Saint-Sacrement Hospital
Since our primary mission is to provide health care and services, we must first and foremost respect the rights of our patients, who are somehow captive to the institution. In this regard, the Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms has a clear position: [The] presence in a public institution of a religious symbol, such as a crucifix or a cross, does not raise a particular problem from the point of view of the Charter, unless that symbol acquires a coercive character because of the context in which it is inscribed. Thus, when the clientele of the institution is vulnerable, because it is captive, young or influential, such as in a school, for example, exposure to a religious symbol, such as a cross hanging on the wall, may be incompatible with the rights and freedoms of the person.
in the current context of respecting the religions that settle in Québec, some feel that the traditions of long-established people are being questioned. All religions must be respected and the Christian religion is one of them. These people are entitled to demand respect for their culture, traditions and religion, even if it is purely a patrimonial one.
In the years following the First World War, the only hospital, L'Hôtel-Dieu in Québec City, was no longer sufficient for the demand. A new hospital was needed. Dr. Arthur Rousseau wanted an establishment for both private patients and poor patients. He obtained the support of the government and the archdiocese and founded a large general hospital equipped with all the modern services needed to treat the sick as well as a school to train future doctors.Indeed, l’Hôpital du Saint-Sacrement was first conceived to be a university hospital and this was its vocation. It was the nuns of l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec who took charge of it, and then were succeeded in June 1927 by les Soeurs de la Charité de Québec. Seven departments, governed by eminent physicians, were officially inaugurated on 15 December 1927.Health care institutions in Québec have been secular for many years. This crucifix recalls the importance of the contribution of religious communities to the construction of this hospital.
For better or for worse, in our world religious identities are resurging. Reminding of the importance of the crucifix, in these circumstances, is to remind immigrants that they are here in the Occident, and that Christianity is not one religion among others. It is that which formed our civilization. Everyone must accept this.
4.2. Zunera Ishaq
4.3. The Peel Region
It has been frustrating and disheartening to see what is often hatred and prejudice towards a single faith group disguised in a supposed campaign about religion in schools. No one has expressed concern about school-wide celebration of Diwali, or that we provide vegetarian options in food, or post posters acknowledging all major faith days, including Christmas. This is a campaign against Islam—counter to the laws of the Country, the Ontario Human Rights Code, and our board values.
Residents from all sorts of backgrounds are thrown together in one community. Why, then, is it getting two different schools? What is the rationale, in a multicultural city that is striving to integrate throngs of newcomers, for maintaining and funding a whole separate school system established on religious grounds? … Toronto is not a city of churches, divided between dominant Protestants and minority Catholics. It is a city of the world. Its residents come from every part of the planet and practice every known religion, from Islam to Tibetan Buddhism to Zoroastrianism. Many have no religion at all. It is a much more secular age.
Conflicts of Interest
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Connolly writes, “In the argument between neoconservatives and liberal nationalists over equality, the former hold too many cards. It seems to me that they will continue to do so until we develop the idea of a thick network pluralism that exceeds both shallow, secular models of pluralism and the thick idea of the highly centered nation. Liberal images of the procedural nation are not only insufficient in themselves, they tend to collapse under pressure from rightist orientations to the nation that are more thick and dense” (Connolly 2005, p. 8).
In the 1991 and 2001 Censuses, Indigenous Spiritualties were not evaluated on their own, but rather lumped into “Other Religions” alongside those who identified as Pagan, Wicca, Unity-New Thought-Pantheist, Scientology, Rastafarian, New Age, Gnostic, and Satanist.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released its final report detailing the tragic legacy of Canada’s residential school system. The report and its Calls to Action ask the government and Christian church parties to acknowledge their role in the colonization of Indigenous peoples in Canada and to engage in an ongoing process of reconciliation. See Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Retrieved from http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=890.
Bramadat and Seljak (2008) write, “It is still the case that the vast majority of Aboriginals would say they are Christians of one denomination (or tradition) or another, even while some of them may also embrace traditional Aboriginal spiritual beliefs, values, and practices. In fact, there are no definiteive studies to establish exactly how many Canadian Aboriginals consider themselves to be Christians. However, when we ask colleagues who specialize in Aboriginal religions and cultures to estimate the approximate percentage of Aboriginals who would likely identify themselves as Christian, the estimates range from 70 to 85 per cent” (2008, p. 428).
Defining what constitutes the public sphere is challenging. While Habermas’ (2006) article “Religion in the Public Sphere” sparked academic discussion around the ‘public sphere’, he does not actually specify what is meant by the term in that piece. Only back in a 1996 article did he detail that “The public sphere can best be described as a network for communicating information and points of view (i.e., opinions expressing affirmative or negative attitudes); the streams of communication are, in the process, filtered and synthesized in such a way that they coalesce into bundles of topically specified public opinions. Like the lifeworld as a whole, so, too, the public sphere is reproduced through communicative action, for which mastery of a natural language suffices; it is tailored to the general comprehensibility of everyday communicative practice” (Habermas 1996, p. 360). Furseth (2017) is an excellent example of a multi-faceted approach to the study of religion in the public sphere.
Gérard Bouchard defines interculturalism as a pluralist model unique to Québec that “concerns itself with the interests of the majority culture, whose desire to perpetuate and maintain itself is perfectly legitimate, as much as it does with the interests of minorities and immigrants—we thus find no reason to oppose either the defenders of the identity and traditions of the majority culture on one side, or the defenders of the rights of minorities and immigrants on the other; it is both possible and necessary to combine the majority’s aspirations for identity with a pluralist mindset, making for a single process of belonging and development” (Bouchard 2011, pp. 438–39).
See S.L. v Commission scolaire des Chênes, 2012 SCC 7,  1 SCR 235.
In Canada, the beginnings of a legal discourse of reasonable accommodation emerged in the 1980s: see Day and Brodsky (1996) for a thorough discussion of early reasonable accommodation cases. See also Woehrling 1998. Jolls (2001) has considered the relationship between the requirement for accommodation and anti-discrimination law. See also Williams and Segal 2003, Sheppard 2010, and Choudhry 2013.
The Multani case involved a school forbidding a Sikh boy from carrying his kirpan to school. The Supreme Court upheld Gurbaj Singh Multani’s right to carry the kirpan to school under conditions that the kirpan be concealed in a sewn-shut sheath.
The rise of the nones can be tracked globally: Canada (23.9%), the USA (19.6%), Australia (22.3%), the UK (46%), France (28%), the Czech Republic (76.4%), Estonia (59.6%), Sweden (27%), Hong Kong (56%), China (52%), North Korea (71%), and Japan (57%): see Statistics Canada (2013a); Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (2012a; 2012b, pp. 45–50); YouGov (2016); Woodhead (2017); Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013); and Zuckerman (2010b). According to WIN-Gallup International (2012), over half of the populations in Vietnam, France, and Ireland consider themselves “not a religious person” or atheist.
Mouvement laïque québécois v Saguenay (City), 2015 SCC 16 [Saguenay].
Translation provided by Christine L. Cusack. Original French reads: “Comme la mission première de notre établissement est de donner des soins et services de santé, nous nous devons de respecter en premier lieu les droits de nos patients, lesquels sont en quelque sorte captifs de l'institution. À cet égard, la Commission des droits et libertés de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse a une position claire : [La] présence dans une institution publique d’un symbole religieux, tel qu’un crucifix ou une croix, ne soulève pas de problème particulier du point de vue de la Charte, à moins que ledit symbole n’acquière un caractère coercitif en raison du contexte dans lequel il s’inscrit. Ainsi, lorsque la clientèle de l’institution est vulnérable, parce que captive, jeune ou influençable, comme dans une école, par exemple, alors l’exposition à un symbole religieux, tel qu’une croix accrochée au mur, peut revêtir un caractère contraignant incompatible avec les droits et libertés de la personne.”
Christine L. Cusack and I examined some 40 documents—newspaper articles, blogs, press releases and website statements—to analyze the public discourse about the Saint-Sacrement incident.
Bill 94, which was introduced by the Liberal government, was entitled “An Act to establish guidelines governing accommodation requests within the Administration and certain institutions.” This bill called for the ban on the wearing of the niqab and emphasized “un visage découvert” or “naked face” when public service was provided or received in Québec. See Fournier and See (2014) for their argument that the bill effectively extended the public sphere and disproportionately impacted Muslim women.
The full title of Bill 60, introduced by the Parti Québecois government, was the “Charter affirming the values of State secularism and religious neutrality and of equality between women and men, and providing a framework for accommodation requests.” This bill proposed to ban civil servants from wearing religious symbols—turbans, kippas, head scarves, burkas, and large crosses—while at work. For a critical analysis of the so-called “Charter of Values” see The Immanent Frame (2014).
Bill 62, introduced by the Liberal government in 2015, is known as “An Act to foster adherence to State religious neutrality and, in particular, to provide a framework for religious accommodation requests in certain bodies.” It is this Bill that the hospital board of Saint-Sacrement referred to in discussing its need to effect policies that are in keeping with state neutrality. The bill became law on 18 October 2017 effectively banning the wearing of the niqab by public servants, those who use government services, and in citizenship ceremonies.
Translated by Christine L. Cusack. (Bock-Côté 2017).
There were counter-statements that supported the actions of the Saint-Sacrement hospital board and did not take up the culture and history rhetoric, but they were less frequent than those that positioned the crucifix as a foundational part of culture and heritage. Not all were as blunt as the statement cited, but were variations on this theme. This research is based on content analysis of selected media reports about the removal and reinstatement of a crucifix at the Saint Sacrement Hospital in Quebec City. Specifically, newspaper articles from 22 February to 14 March 2017 were gathered from the databases Pro-Quest Canadian Major Dailies and Factiva.
Winnifred Sullivan and I have argued that formal legal arrangements aside, de facto religious establishment exists in every country: “Establishment focuses us on the background cultural assumptions, cosmologies, anthropologies and institutions used to manage religion, as well as both internal and external religious diversity; it is historically and culturally specific, and reveals difficulties with universal multicultural and interfaith models” (Beaman and Sullivan 2013, p. 8).
Ishaq v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration),  4 FCR 297, 2015 FC 156 [Ishaq] aff’d in Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) v Ishaq,  1 FCR 686, 2015 FCA 151 [Ishaq FCA]. See also Beaman 2016.
This was further reinforced by the following statement in the decision of the Federal Court: “Similarly, in response to some queries about potential accommodations, another CIC official wrote in an email dated 13 December 2011, that: Under the new directive [Operational Bulletin 359] …all candidates for citizenship must be seen taking the oath of citizenship at a citizenship ceremony. For candidates wearing full or partial face coverings, face coverings must be removed at the oath taking portion of the ceremony in order for CIC officials and the presiding official (Citizenship Judge) to ensure that the candidate has in fact taken the Oath of Citizenship. Under this new directive there are no options for private oath taking or oath taking with a female official as all candidates for citizenship are to repeat the oath together with the presiding official. [Emphasis added]” (Ishaq at para. 47).
The district is publicly funded. The issues might shift if the religious schools were private, but that issue is beyond the scope of this article.
Data from the 2011 Census National Household Survey specific to newcomers in the Peel Region show that South Asians (56.51%) represent the highest population group of visible minorities, followed by Filipinos (10.02%) and Blacks (9.61%) (Region of Peel 2017). Newcomer Top 3 Visible Minority Groups. Peel Data Centre. Available online: https://www.peelregion.ca/planning-maps/newcomers/ (accessed on 3 October 2017).
Erazo v Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, 2014 ONSC 2072 [Erazo].
In an adjoining district, a similar human rights case arose when a student claimed that her request to be exempted from confessional religious courses resulted in discrimination and prohibitions from attending other school events. While this complaint was ultimately settled out of court, it had a significant impact and resulted in several changes to the school board’s policy, making it easier for students to request exemptions. See Sorgini v Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board, 2017 HRTO 471; McQuigge 2017.
Gee 2017. Toronto Needs a Singular, Secular School System. The Globe and Mail. Available online: https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/toronto-needs-a-single-secular-school-system/article35264933/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com& (accessed on 3 October 2017).
Case Law and Legislation
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