The Peel District School Board says it “sincerely appreciates” a policy statement from the Ontario Human Rights Commission emphasizing the responsibility of educators to accommodate students’ religious needs.
“It has been frustrating to hear some in the public disguise a campaign of hate against our Muslim students behind a ‘no religion in schools’ tag line,” Peel District School Board spokesperson Brian Woodland said in an email Monday, referring to recent demands for a ban on in-school Muslim Friday prayers.
“And for others to say they ‘don’t believe in religious accommodation’ — religious accommodation is not like unicorns that you do or do not believe in,” Woodland said. “It is the law and we follow that law. The policy statement clearly shows that obligation, and reinforces that the accommodation must be appropriate and defines what ‘competing rights’ is and is not.”
The OHRC statement, posted to the commission’s website Friday, said “organizations, including education providers, have a duty to maintain environments free from discrimination and harassment based on creed.”
“Education providers are responsible for accommodating creed-related needs to the point of undue hardship,” the statement said, noting that the Ontario Human Rights Code only lists three considerations to assess what “undue hardship” entails: cost, outside sources of funding and health and safety requirements.
“No other factors can be properly considered. For example, business inconvenience, employee morale, third-party preferences, etc. are not valid factors in assessing whether an accommodation causes undue hardship.”
Although the statement does not mention the Peel District School Board, it does make specific reference to the Friday group prayers Muslims partake in, called Jummah.