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The Protection of Religious Minorities in Canada: Maintaining our Human Rights Frameworks January 18, 2011 Professor ColleenSheppard.

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Presentation on theme: "The Protection of Religious Minorities in Canada: Maintaining our Human Rights Frameworks January 18, 2011 Professor ColleenSheppard."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Protection of Religious Minorities in Canada: Maintaining our Human Rights Frameworks January 18, 2011 Professor ColleenSheppard

2 Presentation Outline 1. Equality and Non-discrimination on the basis of Religion: Early Developments 2. Recognition and Protection of Freedom of Religion: Early Developments 3.Recent Developments: The Risk of an Erosion in Protection

3 1. EQUALITY RIGHTS AND NON- DISCRIMINATION: KEY DEVELOPMENTS Adverse Effects Discrimination: Adverse Effects Discrimination: Neutral policies, practices or rules with unequal effects or burdens Neutral policies, practices or rules with unequal effects or burdens The Duty to Accommodate: The Duty to Accommodate: Reasonable Accommodation to the Point of Undue HardshipBackdrop Reasonable Accommodation to the Point of Undue Hardship Backdrop Substantive Equality : Substantive Equality : An expansive approach to constitutional equality

4 Adverse Effects Discrimination and Human Rights Codes Ontario Human Rights Commission and O’Malley v. Simpsons-Sears Ltd., [1985] 2 S.C.R. 536 Saturday Work rule – Seventh Day Adventist Employee Ontario Human Rights Commission and O’Malley v. Simpsons-Sears Ltd., [1985] 2 S.C.R. 536 Saturday Work rule – Seventh Day Adventist Employee Adverse Effect discrimination: … a rule or standard which is on its face neutral, and which will apply equally to all employees, but which has a discriminatory effect upon a prohibited ground …. in that it imposes, because of some special characteristic of the employee or group, obligations, penalties, or restrictive conditions not imposed on other members of the work force.

5 Other Adverse Effect Discrimination Cases Bhinder v. CN, [1985] 2 S.C.R. 561 Bhinder v. CN, [1985] 2 S.C.R. 561 Hard Hat rule – Sikh Employee Hard Hat rule – Sikh Employee Central Alberta Dairy Pool v. Alberta (Human Rights Commission), [1990] 2 S.C.R. 489 – Central Alberta Dairy Pool v. Alberta (Human Rights Commission), [1990] 2 S.C.R. 489 – Easter Monday work requirement – World Wide Church of God Commission scolaire régionale de Chambly v. Bergevin, [1994] 2 S.C.R. 525 Commission scolaire régionale de Chambly v. Bergevin, [1994] 2 S.C.R. 525 Work Schedule – Jewish teachers & Yom Kippur Work Schedule – Jewish teachers & Yom Kippur

6 Duty to Accommodate to Point of Undue Hardship To show that the standard is reasonably necessary, it must be demonstrated that it is impossible to accommodate individual employees sharing the characteristics of the claimant without imposing undue hardship upon the employer. (Public Service Employee Relations Commission) v. BCGSEU, [1999] 3 S.C.R. 3 British Columbia (Public Service Employee Relations Commission) v. BCGSEU, [1999] 3 S.C.R. 3 (Meiorin)

7 Undue Hardship Factors 1. The limits of financial and material resources Costs, Sources of funding, Nature & Size of operation or institution 2. Infringement of Rights - Risks for health and safety - Negative impact on others or individual seeking accommodation 3. Proper Operation of Business or Institution Morale of others, interchangeability of workforce and facilities, Size of institution, Duration and Scope of accommodation Adapted from: Christian Brunelle, Discrimination et obligation d’accommodement raisonable en milieu de travail syndiqué (2011) 248- 251 & Pierre Bosset, Reflections on the Scope and Limits of the Duty of Reasonable Accommodation in the Field of Religion, (CDPDJ, 2005) 9-10.

8 Substantive Equality Andrews v. Law Society of B.C., [1989] 1 S.C.R. 143 It must be recognized at once, however, that every difference in treatment between individuals under the law will not necessarily result in inequality and, as well, that identical treatment may frequently produce serious inequality. … discrimination may be described as a distinction, whether intentional or not but based on grounds relating to personal characteristics of the individual or group, which has the effect of imposing burdens, obligations, or disadvantages on such individual or group not imposed upon others, or which withholds or limits access to opportunities, benefits, and advantages available to other members of society.

9 2. FREEDOM OF RELIGION: SOME KEY DEVELOPMENTS Freedom of Religion (Canadian Charter, s. 2(a) & Quebec Charter, s. 3)* Freedom of Religion (Canadian Charter, s. 2(a) & Quebec Charter, s. 3)* Reasonable Limits (s. 1 & s. 9.1) Reasonable Limits (s. 1 & s. 9.1) Multiculturalism as an interpretive value (s. 27) Multiculturalism as an interpretive value (s. 27) Gender Equality (s. 28 & s. 50.1) Gender Equality (s. 28 & s. 50.1)

10 An Expansive Definition : Direct and Indirect Interference with Religion Freedom [of religion] can primarily be characterized by the absence of coercion or constraint…. Coercion includes not only such blatant forms of compulsion as direct commands to act or refrain from acting on pain of sanction, coercion includes indirect forms of control which determine or limit alternative courses of conduct available to others. Freedom in a broad sense embraces both the absence of coercion and constraint, and the right to manifest beliefs and practices. R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd., [1985] 1 S.C.R. 295

11 Burdens must be more than trivial or insubstantial For a state ‑ imposed cost or burden to be proscribed by s. 2(a) it must be capable of interfering with religious belief or practice. In short, legislative or administrative action which increases the cost of practising or otherwise manifesting religious beliefs is not prohibited if the burden is trivial or insubstantial … R. v. Edwards Books and Art Ltd., [1986] 2 S.C.R. 713

12 Legislative Accommodation and Minimal Impairment I do not share the views of the majority of the United States Supreme Court that no legislative effort need be made to accommodate … In my view, the principles articulated in Oakes make it incumbent on a legislature which enacts Sunday closing laws to attempt very seriously to alleviate the effects of those laws on Saturday observers. The exemption in … the Act under review in these appeals represents a satisfactory effort on the part of the Legislature of Ontario to that end and is, accordingly, permissible. R. v. Edwards Books and Art Ltd., [1986] 2 S.C.R. 713 R. v. Edwards Books and Art Ltd., [1986] 2 S.C.R. 713

13 Multani v. Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys, [2006] 1 S.C.R. 256 Minimal Impairment and the Duty to Accommodate Multani v. Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys, [2006] 1 S.C.R. 256 At a conceptual level, the minimal impairment test, which is central to the section 1 analysis, corresponds in large part with the undue hardship defence against the duty of reasonable accommodation in the context of human rights legislation. J. Woehrling, “L’obligation d’accommodement raisonnable et l’adaptation de la société à la diversité religieuse” (1998), 43 McGill L.J. 325, at p. 360) cited in Multani

14 3.The Risk of an Erosion in Protection? Alberta v. Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony, [2009] 2 S.C.R. 567 Alberta v. Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony, [2009] 2 S.C.R. 567 Photo requirement for drivers’ licences challenged by Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony in Alberta. Photo requirement for drivers’ licences challenged by Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony in Alberta. From 1974-2003, religious objectors were granted a non-photo licence at the Registrar’s discretion.

15 Hutterite Communities in Alberta http://www.nfb.ca/film/the_hutterites/

16 Concern # 1. Religion viewed as individual rather than individual and collective right Community impact does not, however, transform the essential claim — that of the individual claimants for photo ‑ free licences — into an assertion of a group right. McLachlin C.J.

17 Concern # 2: Indirect burdens undermined as potential violations of religious freedom Evidence of a state ‑ imposed cost or burden would not suffice; there would need to be evidence that such a burden was “capable of interfering with religious belief or practice”: Edwards Books, at p. 759. In the present case, however, the courts below seem to have proceeded on the assumption that this requirement was met. McLachlin C.J.

18 Concern # 3: Rejection of an effects-based approach to discrimination? Assuming the respondents could show that the regulation creates a distinction on the enumerated ground of religion, it arises not from any demeaning stereotype but from a neutral and rationally defensible policy choice. There is no discrimination within the meaning of Andrews v. Law Society of British Columbia, [1989] 1 S.C.R. 143, as explained in Kapp. McLachlin C.J.

19 Concern # 4: Significant deference accorded to legislatures This Court has recognized that a measure of leeway must be accorded to governments in determining whether limits on rights in public programs that regulate social and commercial interactions are justified under s. 1 of the Charter. … The primary responsibility for making the difficult choices involved in public governance falls on the elected legislature and those it appoints to carry out its policies. Some of these choices may trench on constitutional rights. McLachlin C.J.

20 Concern # 5: An unfair distinction between rights and privileges is relied upon It is impossible to conclude that Colony members have been deprived of a meaningful choice to follow or not to follow the edicts of their religion. The law does not compel the taking of a photo. It merely provides that a person who wishes to obtain a driver’s licence must permit a photo to be taken for the photo identification data bank. Driving automobiles on highways is not a right, but a privilege. McLachlin C.J.

21 Concern # 6: No individual duty to accommodate when legislative choices are involved The legislature has no capacity or legal obligation to engage in such an individualized determination, … It cannot be expected to tailor a law to every possible future contingency, or every sincerely held religious belief. Laws of general application affect the general public, not just the claimants before the court. … McLachlin C.J.

22 Dissenting Voices (Justices Abella, LeBel & Fish) Recognition of the Collective Dimensions of Religious Freedom The harm to the constitutional rights of the Hutterites, in the absence of an exemption, is dramatic. Their inability to drive affects them not only individually, but also severely compromises the autonomous character of their religious community. Abella J.

23 Recognizing the Collective Dimensions of Religious Freedom (cont’d.) Religion is about religious beliefs, but also about religious relationships. The present appeal signals the importance of this aspect. It raises issues about belief, but also about the maintenance of communities of faith. We are discussing the fate not only of a group of farmers, but of a community that shares a common faith and a way of life that is viewed by its members as a way of living that faith and of passing it on to future generations. LeBel J.

24 Dissenting Voices: Recognizing Significant Deleterious Effects To suggest, as the majority does, that the deleterious effects are minor because the Colony members could simply arrange for third party transportation, fails to appreciate the significance of their self-sufficiency to the autonomous integrity of their religious community. When significant sacrifices have to be made to practise one’s religion in the face of a state imposed burden, the choice to practise one’s religion is no longer uncoerced. Abella J.

25 Dissenting Voices – The burdens outweigh the benefits The infringing measure was implemented in order to reach a hypothetical objective of minimizing identity theft, by requiring driver’s licences with photos. But a small number of people carrying a driver’s licence without a photo will not significantly compromise the safety of the residents of Alberta. On the other hand, under the impugned regulation, a small group of people is being made to carry a heavy burden. The photo requirement was not a proportionate limitation of the religious rights at stake. LeBel J. … more than 700,000 Albertans do not have a driver’s licence and are therefore not in the province’s facial recognition database.Abella J.

26 What explains the retreat by the SCC? A preference for individual rather than collective rights A preference for individual rather than collective rights Public/government versus private contexts Public/government versus private contexts Legislation/regulation versus administrative action Legislation/regulation versus administrative action Public security, crime & public order concerns Public security, crime & public order concerns Risky precedents: Anticipation of the Polygamy, Niqab/Burqa Cases Risky precedents: Anticipation of the Polygamy, Niqab/Burqa Cases

27 Conclusion Too early to predict the effects of the Hutterian Brethren case Risk that it could reduce the human rights protections afforded minority religious communities with respect both to freedom of religion, equality and s. 1. Concerned reduce equality rights in other areas (especially effects-based violations)


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