Situations like these have been making the news on and off for quite some time now and politicians are behaving as if they were wishing them away; they won't. As more immigrants come here to help us build a better society, the absence of a clear framework will contribute to the confusion and the frustration. A few facts...
- In 1985, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of CN against a Sikh employee who refused to wear a hard hat at a particular work site.
- In 1990, the RCMP accepted a precedent setting request from one of its new officers to wear the turban with his uniform. No court ruling was involved in the decision.
- In 1996, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal ruled in favor of a motorcyclist who felt his turban was enough to protect him.
- In 2008, an Ontario court ruled against a motorcyclist who felt his turban was enough to protect him.
- This year, the Supreme Court ruled that a Hutterite community in Alberta must abide by provincial rules that make a photo mandatory for all new drivers' licenses.
There's obviously a limit to reasonable accommodation, but what's reasonable to some isn't to others. I understand the safety concern that was in mind when concertgoers were asked to leave their kirpan behind at Gurdas Maan's concert last August in Calgary. Proponents of such a stance have been accused of misunderstanding Sikhism. I think they rather understand the deviant minds that could use religious excuses to perpetrate their wrongdoings. I personally don't mind religious symbols. However, I do expect people to drop their ceremonial blade upon entering a courthouse or embarking an airplane. I also expect people to show their faces when asked to identify themselves or upon entering a bank.
Now... someone wants to open up a sugar shack where ham and bacon are replaced by halal or kosher meat? That's great!... I'd actually be curious to try maple syrup sweeten baklavas or lekach.
When it comes to religious request, it's a given that the Québécois express reservations more easily than most Canadians. Why is that so? The average Jean-Guy is more xenophobic than the average Doug? Or is he simply less politically correct and more vocal? One thing's for sure, as demonstrated with the Bouchard-Taylor Commission, the Québécois aren't afraid to wash their dirty laundry in public. Perhaps the most logical explanation is the fact that the province entered modern times by shedding its religiousness out of the public place. The Quiet Revolution has left its mark.
In January 2007, Hérouxville received international attention when its town council passed controversial measures regarding practices deemed unsuitable. The code of conduct stated, among other things, that stoning women or burning them alive was prohibited, as was female genital cutting. The initiative was labeled xenophobic.
In the recent edition of its study guide Discover Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada included the following passage: "In Canada, men and women are equal under the law. Canada's openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, 'honour killings,' female genital mutilation or other gender-based violence. Those guilty of these crimes are severely punished under Canada's criminal laws."
There's still a lot of work to do.