January 9, 2014
York is committed to creating an inclusive learning environment for all students, faculty and staff. Each request for accommodation is carefully reviewed based on its own merits in the best interests of all. The Taylor-Bouchard Commission of 2007-8 recommended accommodation as a guiding principle, while recognizing that the duty to accommodate is not limitless. There are cases where accommodation is not possible, such as when it infringes on the rights of other individuals or compromises the academic integrity of a course.
For any accommodation request, a decision is made in consideration of the Ontario Human Rights Code, the individual circumstances, the requirements of the law, any competing rights and the academic requirements of the course. A deciding factor in this case was that it was an online course where another student had previously been given permission to complete the course requirement off-campus. Ultimately, a satisfactory agreement was reached between the professor and the student. Nevertheless, the broader issue of religious accommodations in secular universities remains an important societal concern that warrants further discussion. It is noteworthy that the Ontario Human Rights Commission is currently reviewing these matters.
York is a secular institution as reflected in an earlier Presidential statement. We are committed to gender equity, inclusivity and diversity, and proud of our tradition of debating complicated issues of societal interest in a country which encourages public debate and upholds democratic and pluralistic values. York University welcomes the current dialogue about accommodation of religious beliefs. This is a complex issue facing all universities and public institutions, and we are pleased that the debate is now taking place in the public fora.