Canada: Court Upholds School Board's Decision To Deny Accommodation Request

In a recent decision in E.T. v. Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, the Superior Court of Justice upheld the decision of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (the "Board") denying a request to accommodate two students pursuant to its Equity Policy. The Applicant, a father of two children attending a public elementary school, challenged the Board's refusal to grant a request for accommodation to be informed about, and permit his children to be excused from classes on the basis of religion with respect to, specific subject matter that he characterized as "false teachings."

In 2009, in accordance with the Ontario Ministry of Education's policy and its guidelines regarding equity and inclusive education, the Board developed an Equity Policy to ensure that educational practices within the district were consistent with Ministry expectations. The policy provided a process to request and consider religious accommodation with respect to religious practices and curriculum.

Following the implementation of the Board's Equity Policy, the Applicant sought accommodation on the basis of religion as follows: (1) to be notified when "objectionable" instruction would be taught to his children; and (2) to have the right to have his children excused from classes in which he deemed the instruction to be objectionable. After discussing the matter with the Applicant and reviewing his letter, the Board denied his request.

The Applicant then sought relief from the Court, asking for: (1) a declaration that, as a parent, he has final authority over the education of his children; and (2) an order that the Board provide him with information, in advance, as to specific curriculum areas being taught to his children, and that he be permitted to withdraw them from certain classes that conflict with his religious beliefs.

The Applicant argued that the Board's failure to grant the request for information and accommodation was a direct breach of his right to freedom of religion under section 2(a) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the "Charter"). In the alternative, he argued that his right to freedom from discrimination on the basis of creed under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the "Code") was violated.

The Board acknowledged that in denying the Applicant's requests for accommodation, it engaged and infringed upon his right to freedom of religion. However, the Board argued that its decision sought to balance the statutory objectives of the Education Act and the Charter.


From the outset, the Court held that the Applicant's relief for a declaration that, as a parent, he have final authority over the education of his children could not be granted. While the common law provides that parents have authority over their children on matters such as education, these obligations must also align with the legal framework and regulations established under the Education Act. The Court refused to grant the relief sought on the basis that giving the Applicant a "black and white" declaration that he would have authority over the education of his children would oversimplify the interplay between the common law principles and those ingrained in the legislation.

The Court also refused to grant an order that the Board provide the Applicant with information about the curriculum before the lessons would be taught and that he be granted permission to withdraw his children from classes or activities that his religious beliefs would consider "false teachings" or "objectionable."

The Court found that the Board's decision to deny the request for accommodation was reasonable for two primary reasons. First, if the Board were to grant the accommodation requested, it would cause undue hardship on the teacher. To fulfil the request, the teacher would have to interpret what parts of the curriculum may be objectionable. The list provided by the Applicant was fairly extensive. The Board found that it would be extremely difficult for teachers to be familiar with the concerns raised and then to provide advance notice.

The second reason was the potential for non-attendance. The Board viewed this issue from two perspectives. Allowing some children to be excused from particular classes protects their religious freedoms by removing them from situations that may be considered uncomfortable or sinful for them. On the other hand, isolating children from the classroom may also cause discomfort for those who remain, as well as those who would be removed. The Court ultimately found that past cases favoured inclusion and held that the Board's decision was reasonable.

Additionally, the Court noted that the Board's decision did not leave the Applicant without further recourse. Although the Applicant did not agree with the Board's Equity Policy, he still had the option of placing his children in a privately funded school or home schooling them as an alternative to enrolling them in the publicly funded education system.

With respect to the Applicant's argument that he had been discriminated against under the Code, the Court found that it did not have the jurisdiction to address the Applicant's submissions and that the matter should be referred to the Human Rights Tribunal.

The decision in E.T. v. Hamilton-Wentworth supports the implementation of inclusive education policies and curriculum. Where a student's religious beliefs and the Ontario curriculum conflict, a school board is required to conduct an analysis of the competing rights. In the present case, the decision to deny the request for accommodation was based not only on the unreasonable nature of the breadth of the requested accommodation, but also on the impact that removal from class would have on all students.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions