There is discussion in the media today about the complaint brought forward by the group Canadian Hindu Advocacy about the Toronto District School Board‘s religious accommodation policy – and practice in one its schools. See, for example, Kelly McParland’s piece in today’s National Post.
Thought I’d quickly share resources that may be useful in understanding this issue:
The Ontario Ministry of Education Policy/Program Memorandum 119 which provides “direction to school boards on the review, development, implementation, and monitoring of equity and inclusive education policies to support student achievement. Our schools need to help students develop into highly skilled, knowledgeable, and caring citizens who can contribute to both a strong economy and a cohesive society”.
Here’s what the PPM says about religious accommodation:
School board policies on religious accommodation must be in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code and the requirements stated in Policy/Program Memoranda No. 108, “Opening or Closing Exercises in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools”, and No. 112, “Education About Religion in the Public Elementary and Secondary Schools”. As part of their new or revised equity and inclusive education policy and implementation plan, boards will include a religious accommodation guideline in keeping with the Ontario Human Rights Code, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of creed (includes religion) and imposes a duty to accommodate. Accordingly, boards are expected to take appropriate steps to provide religious accommodation for students and staff.
The EDU states that school boards have 4 years to develop and implement policies.
The Toronto District School Board‘s policy, Guidelines and Procedures for the Accommodation of Religious Requirements, Practices and Observances “Explains in detail the religious accommodations that are necessary in schools in the Toronto District School Board. Many religions’ prayer, diet, attire, and holiday laws and observances are explained in order for schools to make appropriate accommodations for students”.
Also see : The Ontario Human Rights Code.