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    WHAT IS REASONABLE ABOUT REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION ? By Dr. Mohamed Elmasry Apart from some 650,000 officially enumerated remaining native Canadians,everyone
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 7, 2008
      By Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

      Apart from some 650,000 officially enumerated remaining native
      Canadians,everyone else living in Canada is either an immigrant or
      the descendent of immigrants. Beginning several centuries ago, this
      country's founding whiteEuropean settlers, including those from
      France, managed to wipe out themajority of indigenous inhabitants;
      those who survived were forced into ghettos called "reserves" and
      became second-class citizens. Even Canada voted against a UN
      resolution which recognize their rights. Aboriginal leaders cannot
      ask the rest of Canada, including Québec to even just sit down and
      seriously discuss the issue of "reasonable accommodation" taking
      native traditions as the norm. This is because Canadian natives are
      still severely marginalized and have virtually no political power
      orinfluence. Yet now, a segment of Québecers who are almost
      exclusively white, Catholic and French-speaking, want the authority
      to define what it means to "reasonably accommodate" the cultural and
      religious needs of other Québecers. Unlike the minorities for whom
      they want to legislate cultural adaptive norms, this group is the one
      with the most political clout and the loudest public voice.

      In Québec, as in the rest of Canada, immigrants laid the foundations
      of our society. As time went on, these immigrants came from
      increasingly diversecultures and faith traditions. Today, many of
      their descendents fill theranks of universities and professional
      vocations, adding to knowledge-basethat fuels the Québec economy. It
      only stands to reason then, that when one immigrant group (the
      whiteFrancophone Catholic community) turn on their less-numerous and
      morevisibly diverse fellow citizens in hostile, unreasonable
      andunaccommodating ways, the results could be disastrous. Those whom
      Québecrejects will provide a skilled workforce welcomed with open
      arms in Ontarioor Alberta. And, before Québec go this negative route
      and find itself short of an adequate population to maintain its
      quality of life and economicinfrastructure, those closet racists who
      loudly denounce accommodation should know that today the only source
      of qualified new French speaking immigrants are non-European, non-
      white and largely non-Christian.

      Given this very plausible scenario, why is Québec's new Reasonable
      Accommodations Commission posting a survey whose questions will only
      inviteracists, bigots, white supremacists and fear-mongers out into
      the publicforum and into the limelight of media and international
      attention? Premier Jean Charest clearly failed to show leadership or
      even short-termvision when he neglecting to take this opportunity to
      emphasize that Québec's population consists not only of white, French-
      speaking Catholics, but that Quebec is Canada's most inclusive and
      culturally diverse province,one that should be proud to respect and
      accommodate all of its citizens -without exception. Instead, he has
      remained silent and absent when hijab-wearing girls in his province
      were barred from soccer and judo, and when racist comments were made
      about Jews in Québec. And then he shelved the whole issue
      of "reasonable accommodation" and lamely handed it over to a
      commission, which began hearings this past week.

      The Commission on Reasonable Accommodations is trying to find out
      from Québécois what they think constitutes fair treatment
      (i.e. "reasonable accommodation") of the province's minorities. To
      this end, the Commission asks them on its website to: "take part in
      abrief simulation exercise by submitting to your judgment a list of
      harmonization requests based on actual cases. You will put yourself
      in the position of judges, managers of public institutions such as
      schools, hospitals, government or municipal services, or the
      directors oforganization such as businesses or sports associations,
      who wish to satisfy the needs of their clienteles."

      "To ensure that you benefit fully from this exercise, we invite you
      to assess the requests bearing in mind all facets of harmonization
      practices,i.e. human rights and freedoms, the values of the host
      society, the notion of secularism, models of intercultural relations,
      and the dynamic of integration." Here are 10 sample questions that
      the Commission posted for Québécois to answer, according to various
      levels of agreement or disagreement.

      So far, this process may seem quite innocuous; after all, Canadians
      are surveyed frequently by many groups and agencies. But the issues
      raised here haveenormous implications to be considered. For example:
      What if most responders strongly disagree with the actions offered
      below? What would the Commissions recommendations be then? What would
      politicians say, or do in response? How would the rest of Canada
      react? Consider carefully these questionnaire items: "Allow, for
      religious reasons, a child to eat food other than what is offered on
      the regular menu in his day care centre or school cafeteria. For
      religious reasons, schedule separate swimming lessons for girls and
      boys in the schools. Authorize a student to abandon an optional
      course to register in another one because the content of the first
      course conflicts with certain of his religious beliefs. Modify for
      certain students the scheduling of an exam, which coincides with a
      religious holiday. In a school, use frosted glass in the windows
      around a swimming pool or gymnasium to prevent boys or men from
      seeing girls in bathing suits or sportswear. If conditions allow,
      officially designate a room as a place of prayer in a university.
      Allow Muslim students to wear headscarves in class. Allow Sûreté du
      Québec police officers to wear turbans. Allow Muslims to wear
      headscarves during sports tournaments, assuming thatdoing so creates
      neither an advantage or a disadvantage nor risk of injury. Allow the
      kirpan to be worn in school wrapped up and attached under the

      [Dr. Mohamed Elmasry is national president of the Canadian
      IslamicCongress. He can be reached at p@...]

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