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Accomodation and Prejudice

by Archives February 17, 2009

How unreasonable is reasonable accommodation to the citizens of Quebec today?
A young Sikh boy in Montreal was charged and taken to court on Feb. 10 for allegedly using his ceremonial kirpan in an inappropriate fashion, in an incident involving questionable testimonies from several students.
The media has taken this incident and ran with it, as nothing stirs up the hornet’s nest which is Quebec society more than the debate over reasonable accommodation.
Had this incident involved anything but a kirpan, media attention would have been moot and disciplinary action certainly would not have involved the Canadian court system to the extent that it has. Prejudice was the motivating factor in bringing this incident to trial. What we have here is reasonable accommodation without being reasonably accommodating.
The issues associated with reasonable accommodation draw much in the way of negative sentiments and press towards our province. Quebec society is already often thought of as being secular and not very receptive to the plights of whom the majority might deem as “outsiders.”
Yet these outsiders are not only wanted in this province, but they are needed.
With our low birth rate, we could very well face a population crisis in the coming years, not to mention a blockage in what was once a steady influx of workers to add to the labour force.
We do have laws that seek to protect the interests and freedoms of various ethnic minorities. As it stands, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that items carrying religious significance (such as the notorious kirpan) are allowed to be worn, despite worries from some that possession of one of these items could compromise the safety of students.
But even with these laws on paper, Quebec society is still very much geared towards xenophobic.
The fact that an incident such as the one involving the Sikh boy charged with brandishing a ceremonial kirpan would even make it to court is ludicrous; especially when considering that the main points of evidence available are hearsay from several very young adolescents.
This trial seems to be more or less a case of he says/she says/he did; certainly evidence such as this should not justify using the court’s valuable time and the taxpayer’s valuable money.
If Quebec is to shed the image of xenophobia that has dogged the province for years now it must in essence change the way in which it perceives what “normalcy” is.

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