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Just work it out amongst yourselves: the implications of the private mediation of religious freedom

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In its much-heralded report of 2008, the Bouchard-Taylor Commission struck by the Quebec government divided the resolution of contests involving religion-based claims into two realms: those which are solved in the courts and before human rights tribunals and therefore enter into formal determinations based on ‘reasonable accommodation’ and those disputes which are settled in private, with the guiding principle being responsabilisation dans la sphère privée' or ‘concerted adjustment’. In the report it is clear that the Commission prefers the second alternative for the resolution of disputes or disagreements about such things as prayer space, kirpans in schoolyards, serving pork at maple sugar farms, and religious needs in employment contexts. In this article I argue that encouraging the private resolution of issues around religious freedom, particularly in a social, legal and political climate in which there is fear and anxiety about the religious other, is an alternative that renders already vulnerable groups and individuals even more vulnerable. This in turn contributes to a situation in which they risk being oppressed and disadvantaged in a society which promises equality. Such a situation can create tension which could easily have been avoided if clear guidelines based on a beginning place of citizen equality were publicly and clearly stated by legal and political institutions.
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Keywords: conflict; identity; immigrant; legal; rights

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Classics and Religious Studies, University of Ottawa, Ottawa,Ontario, Canada

Publication date: 01 April 2012

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