Bill 62- Guidelines released on assessing requests for religious accommodation

The Quebec government has released its guidelines on how it will assess requests for religious accommodation under Bill 62, the law concerning face coverings and use of public services.

The controversial law was passed in the National Assembly in October 2017

The section of the law governing face coverings bans people wearing a covering such as a niqab or burka from using a city bus, attending a public school at any level of education or attending a medical appointment for themselves or someone else.

However, in December, a Quebec Superior Court put that part of the law on hold until the government adopted guidelines dictating how the restrictions on face coverings would work in practice.

Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée said at the time that the government was open to allowing religious accommodation for people who wore face coverings for religious reasons.

On Wednesday, Vallée said that each case must be considered on an individual basis, but  she outlined what a successful request would include in order to be granted.

The government guidelines mention six criteria:

1. The request must prove that the difference in treatment is impairing his or her rights.
2. The request must be serious and based on sincere belief.
3. The accommodation must be in line with the principle of equality of all people. Therefore, it must not result in the discrimination of another group.
4. The accommodation must be in line with the principle of the state’s religious neutrality.
5. The accommodation is reasonable. In other words, it does not cause undue hardship on others or affect the quality of service or public health of others. This also factors in the cost of any accommodation.
6. The person making the request is co-operating in seeking a solution, including making concessions. Failure to co-operate may result in the request being denied.

Vallée added, “Each request needs to be taken in its own context.The guidelines don’t outline what is acceptable or what is not acceptable. The guidelines provide a rubric that will help an organization that receives a request to determine if they should grant the accommodation or not.”