Dear Colleagues and Honourable Judges:
Our last dinner meeting was truly enjoyable and enlightening discussion on reasonable accommodation. The topic was obviously one that is current and caused considerable debate and discussion.
We are continuing our plans for our big 60th Anniversary celebration which will be happening on September 18th of this year. Special thanks to Ian Solloway and his entire Committee for all the hard work they have already undertook to prepare for this exciting event. You can expect special announcements about the anniversary very shortly.
Our next programme, the Annual Students Dinner, will surely be informative and interesting. Me Gérald R. Tremblay and Paul Levine will enlighten us on “Expert Testimony in Chief and Cross-Examination - The Use of Visualization and Data Analysis.” I encourage all our members to attend and meet the students and stagiaires who are the future of the Society. You can download the Dinner Invitation here.
Please mark the upcoming dinner meetings in your 2008 calendar:
April 3rd - Madam Justice Rosalie Abella
June 18th - Edward L. Greenspan, Q.C.
Happy New Year to all!
The topic of discussion was “reasonable accommodation” which is so prevalent in the Quebec media today and which is the subject of a special commission set up by the Quebec government known as the Bouchard Taylor Commission.
The Honourable Madam Justice Carol Cohen, J.C.S. acted as moderator of the panel discussion.
Prior to introducing the distinguished panel, Madam Justice Cohen briefly discussed raison d’être of the Bouchard Taylor Commission. She noted that the concept of “toleration” is viewed by some as a negative element, connoting condescension among Quebecers, “de souche” for whom there remains a deep concern about the erosion of their culture. Accordingly, some who have appeared before the Commission have made remarks which are considered racist.
The panel consisted of Me Julius Grey, a human rights lawyer, Mr. Jack Jedwab, Executive Director, Association for Canadian Studies and Professor Jean-François Gaudreault-Desbiens, of the University of Montreal.
According to Me Grey, the problem is not really one of “reasonable accommodation”, but rather one of multiculturalism. Proponents of a common language and culture in Quebec therefore see accommodation as an integrating element which will favour the merging of immigrants to Quebec into the “Quebec culture.”
Me Grey argues that the accommodation component should be seen as an act of individuals rather than a collective act.
Me Grey, recounting his own experience as an immigrant, feels that he was well received, and that Quebec is definitely not racist. The notion of “civic nationalism” which evolved in Quebec politics, illustrates that on the whole, immigrants are treated fairly in Quebec.
Professor Gaudreault-Desbiens developed a theme that the notion of “reasonable accommodation” evolved from labour law in the United States and in Canada. He referred to the O’Malley case decided in 1985 by the Supreme Court of Canada, in which the notion of “reasonable accommodation” was recognized in the case of an employee who was a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Faith and who therefore, could not work on Friday nights or Saturdays.
As this concept of “reasonable accommodation” took root in the law, a sort of reverse onus was placed on those opposing “reasonable accommodation” to demonstrate undue hardship.
Professor Gaudreault-Desbiens pointed out that those seeking reasonable accommodation must present concrete evidence that it is required under the circumstances; they cannot simply argue in the abstract.
Mr. Jedwab opened his comments by disagreeing with Me Grey; arguing that the problem is not that of multiculturalism, but rather that of the reframing of “otherness”.
Mr. Jedwab expressed disappointment that the debate before the Bouchard Taylor Commission was framed as an identity crisis. Mr. Jedwab also took the media to task for failing to properly define various notions being bandied about such as multiculturalism and social cohesion.
Mr. Jedwab sounded an alarm that there is an element of xenophobia in the notion of “otherness” and that the so-called identity crisis has given a platform for those wishing to express anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic sentiments.
Mr. Jedwab referred to his experience several years ago at the conference held in Africa in the city of Durban. The anti-Semitic views expressed at that conference were treated by some of the participants as a minor phenomenon with a view to emphasizing the so-called “big picture” of combating racism. Mr. Jedwab was totally against this approach.
In conclusion, Mr. Jedwab stated that it could not be said that Quebec is not more intolerant than other provinces; in his view, Quebec is more like Europe in its treatment of minorities.
A most interesting intervention took place when Me Irwin Cutler, the former Minister of Justice of Canada approached the podium and commented on his personal experience at the Durban conference. He described it as nothing less than a two-week “festival of hatred” wherein anti-Semitism was laundered as an anti racist position.
A lively question and answer session ensued. All those in attendance clearly enjoyed a most stimulating evening.
January 29, 2008
Annual Student Dinner
Guests: Me Gérald R. Tremblay, Q.C., McCarthy Tétrault and Paul Levine, C.A., of Navigant Consulting
Topic: Expert Testimony in Chief and Cross-Examination - The Use of Visualization and Data Analysis
The American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists invites you to the presentation of its
2008 PURSUIT OF JUSTICE AWARDS
Honorable Irwin Cotler, MP and former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and
Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld, Founders of the Innocence Project
The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Sunday, January 27, 2008, 6:30 PM, Dinner & Dessert Reception
Reservations are required. To make a reservation please visit www.jewishlawyers.org and click on: POJ Award Dinner 2008
To the following for their sponsorship of the January 29 Dinner-Meeting:
To the following members of the Lord Reading family: