Reasonable Accommodation 101

You would think that given Concordia’s situation as a multicultural institution, its students would be more aware of the ongoing reasonable accommodation debate and would take notice of topics that can potentially change their daily lives. However, such was not the case as the majority of students asked about the topic on campus replied with a disappointing “reasonable what?” So if you don’t know anything about this topic, sit back and take a few minutes to learn what it’s all about.
It first came into question after a small town of Herouxville, Quebec established a list of rules that immigrants are to abide by if they wish to live in that area. The regulations covered a variety of issues, mostly regarding the rights of individuals, especially women. In an attempt to express the equality of women in society, the regulations stated that in Herouxville there is to be no stoning or burning of women, nor should they cover their heads. Needless to say, these blatantly stated regulations made headlines very quickly, and ultimately became the starting-point of the entire debate.
This debate is of monumental importance because of the role immigrants play in our society. Minorities are essential in Quebec because the population and birthrate aren’t very high; we need these smaller communities to maintain everyday life. Nonetheless, we can’t underestimate the importance of integration; people can maintain their own beliefs and values at home, but should not expect society to change radically to meet them. Conversely, Quebec could do much more to ease the transition into its society in the form of language education, and job training programs.
Quebec’s ongoing reasonable accommodation issue has sparked wide-ranging debate about what it means to be a Canadian, and moreover, a Quebecer. With new developments about to take place in the form of public hearings, exactly how this debate will affect Quebec’s population remains to be seen.
After acquiring the attention of the nation, our premier Jean Charest was quick to dismiss the Herouxville occurrence, dubbing it an isolated incident, and reiterating Quebec’s welcoming attitude towards immigrants. Responding to public pressure from Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe, Charest created a commission whose goal is to determine what should be considered reasonable accommodation for immigrants in Quebec. And so it began.
Although it is now considered one of the hottest topics being covered by the media, this is an issue the courts have dealt on previous occasions. Cases that concern constitutionally protected rights and freedoms have been scrutinized in the courts for some time now, this is not a new phenomenon. However, this is the first time that such a commission has been established by the Quebec government to attempt to find a solution to the reasonable accommodation question.
It’s impossible to deny the diversity of Quebec’s population, and Concordia is a shining example of it. You literally can’t spend more than two minutes here without seeing the diversity of its student body, but how well this array of groups functions as part of a larger community. In the past Concordia has been accommodating to the various minority groups here; allowing various student associations to hold meetings and exercises on campus. However, there have been various complaints about the lack of certain religious services. The presence of such religious services in public places such as schools is sure to be among the issues debated in the upcoming hearings. In any case, Concordia seems to have found a pseudo-balance between the integration and accommodation of its minority communities. Also, given its demography, students at Concordia are lucky enough to be able to be exposed to various cultures and traditions that truly give them the opportunity to become more knowledgeable, and worldly.
With no clear end is sight, the implications of the debate have yet to be seen. With the public hearings on reasonable accommodation set to begin in September, there will undoubtedly be significant developments in the months to come. So exactly what kind of accommodation is reasonable?
We may soon find out, but it’s up to you – fellow students – to pay attention!


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