Freedom of religion and the duty to accommodate within the
workplace context is a highly important issue in Québec
given the discrimination provisions of the Canadian Charter of
Rights and Freedoms as well as the Québec Charter
of Human Rights and Freedoms. Employers and employees must
work together to attempt to reconcile the right to freedom of
religion of employees with the legal obligations imposed on
employers under occupational health and safety laws. Quebec courts
have been frequently called to rule on this particular subject over
Most recently, in the case of Singh et al. v.
Montréal Gateways Terminals et al., the Superior Court
of Québec was called to rule on the issue as to whether
individuals of the Sikh religion could be exempted from a work
policy implemented by the Montréal Gateways Terminals
("MGT"), Empire Stevedoring Co. Ltd. and
Termont Terminals Inc. (collectively the "Defendant
Terminals"). This policy required all workers to wear
a hardhat when circulating outside on the premises of the
terminals. The Plaintiffs, truck drivers whose work included
transporting containers, claimed that their religious belief
prohibited them from wearing such hardhats. Accordingly, they
maintained that this policy was discriminatory and violated their
right to freedom of religion. Upon adopting the policy, MGT tried
to accommodate the Plaintiffs by modifying its container loading
procedures which enabled them to stay in their vehicles and, hence,
avoid wearing hardhats. However, these measures were rejected by
the Plaintiffs as they claimed that they involved significant
This issue was decided upon on September 21st 2016 by
Mr. Justice Prévost, J.C.S., who ruled that although
MGT's policy was prima facie discriminatory and
violated the right to freedom of religion as regards to the
Plaintiffs, it was nevertheless justified given the imperative
objectives of such policy.
In reaching his decision, Mr. Justice Prévost, J.C.S.,
began his analysis by examining the principles with respect to
discrimination enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and
Freedoms and the Québec Charter of Human Rights and
Freedoms. To that effect, this decision is of significant
importance as it is a rare case of transposition of the protections
granted under the Québec Charter of Human Rights and
Freedoms to a federally-regulated workplace. He established
that the policy was in fact discriminatory since the Plaintiffs
could not meet the requirement of wearing a hardhat without
violating their religious beliefs and, thus, could not work at the
terminals operated by MGT. He also confirmed that the policy
violated the Plaintiffs' right to freedom of religion as their
belief was sincerely held and the challenged policy interfered with
the Plaintiffs' ability to act in accordance with their beliefs
in a manner that was more than trivial or insubstantial.
Nonetheless, Mr. Justice Prévost, J.C.S., held that the
policy implemented by the Defendant Terminals was justified as it
was adopted in order to ensure the safety of workers circulating or
working in the terminals operated by the Defendant Terminals. There
was in fact a substantial risk of head injuries for truck drivers
when they were required to circulate outside their vehicle on the
premises of the terminals. In rendering his decision, Mr. Justice
Prévost, J.C.S., also underlined the importance of health
and safety at work within the Québec society.
Empire Stevedoring Co. Ltd., Termont Terminals Inc. and the
Montreal Port Authority were represented by Vikki-Ann Flansberry
from Dentons Montreal.
Singh et al. v. Montréal Gateways Terminals
et al. 2016 QCCS 4521
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