Multani v. Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys et al., (2006) 345 N.R. 201 (SCC)

JudgeMcLachlin, C.J.C., Major*, Bastarache, Binnie, LeBel, Deschamps, Fish, Abella and Charron, JJ.
CourtSupreme Court (Canada)
Case DateMarch 02, 2006
JurisdictionCanada (Federal)
Citations(2006), 345 N.R. 201 (SCC);2006 SCC 6;38 Admin LR (4th) 159;[2006] SCJ No 6 (QL);145 ACWS (3d) 1046;264 DLR (4th) 577;345 NR 201;[2006] 1 SCR 256;JE 2006-508;137 CRR (2d) 326;[2006] ACS no 6;55 CHRR 463

Multani v. Marguerite-Bourgeoys School Bd. (2006), 345 N.R. 201 (SCC)

MLB headnote and full text

[French language version follows English language version]

[La version française vient à la suite de la version anglaise]

....................

Temp. Cite: [2006] N.R. TBEd. MR.001

Balvir Singh Multani and Balvir Singh Multani, in his capacity as tutor to his minor son Gurbaj Singh Multani (appellants) v. Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys and Procureur général du Québec (respondents) and World Sikh Organization of Canada, Association canadienne des libertés civiles, Commission ontarienne des droits de la personne et Commission canadienne des droits de la personne (intervenors)

(30322; 2006 SCC 6; 2006 CSC 6)

Indexed As: Multani v. Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys et al.

Supreme Court of Canada

McLachlin, C.J.C., Major*, Bastarache, Binnie, LeBel, Deschamps, Fish, Abella and Charron, JJ.

March 2, 2006.

Summary:

A student's religion required that he wear a kirpan (small ceremonial dagger) at all times. The school's governing board pro­hibited the student from wearing the kirpan to school as it violated the school's code of conduct prohibition against the wearing of weapons and dangerous objects. The council of commissioners upheld that absolute pro­hibition. The student sought a declaratory judgment that he had the right to wear the kirpan to school under certain conditions (sealed and sewn up inside his clothes). The student submitted that this constituted a rea­sonable accommodation of his right to free­dom of religion and his equality rights under ss. 3 and 10 of the Quebec Charter of Hu­man Rights and Freedoms and ss. 2(a) and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Free­doms.

The Quebec Superior Court granted a de­cla­ra­tory judgment and injunctive relief au­thorizing the student to wear his kirpan to school if he complied with the conditions that it be sealed inside his clothing. The court declared council's decision to be null and of no force and effect. The school board appealed.

The Quebec Court of Appeal allowed the ap­peal and dismissed the motion for declara­tory judgment. The court ruled that the standard of review of council's decision was the administrative law standard of reason­ableness simpliciter. Although the absolute prohibition violated the student's freedom of religion, the decision made to ensure the safe­ty of school staff and other students con­stituted a reasonable limit prescribed by law under s. 1 of the Charter. The student ap­pealed.

The Supreme Court of Canada allowed the ap­peal and declared the council's decision prohibiting the wearing of a kirpan to be a nullity. The absolute prohibition infringed the student's right to freedom of religion (Charter, s. 2(a)) and was not a reasonable limit prescribed by law under s. 1 of the Charter because an absolute prohibition did not minimally impair the student's Charter rights. A majority of the court ruled that the administrative law standard of review (rea­sonableness simpliciter) did not apply to decide the substantive issue (whether in­fringe­ment a reasonable limit prescribed by law under s. 1 of the Charter).

Administrative Law - Topic 9102

Board and tribunals - Judicial review - Standard of review - [See Civil Rights - Topic 8581.2 ].

Civil Rights - Topic 383

Freedom of conscience and religion - In­fringe­ment of - Conditions precedent - The Supreme Court of Canada stated that "in or­der to establish that his or her free­dom of religion has been infringed, the claimant must demonstrate (1) that he or she sin­cerely believes in a practice or belief that has a nexus with religion, and (2) that the impugned conduct of a third party inter­feres, in a manner that is non-trivial or not insubstantial, with his or her ability to act in accordance with that prac­tice or belief. The fact that different people practise the same religion in different ways does not af­fect the validity of the case of a person alleging that his or her freedom of religion has been infringed. What an individual must do is show that he or she sincerely believes that a certain belief or practice is required by his or her religion. The reli­gious belief must be asserted in good faith and must not be fictitious, capricious or an artifice." - See paragraphs 34 to 35.

Civil Rights - Topic 390.3

Freedom of conscience and religion - In­fringement of - Schools - Prohibition against religious symbols (kirpans, etc.) - A student's religion required that he wear a kirpan (small ceremonial dagger) at all times - The school board's council of com­mis­sioners affirmed an absolute pro­hibition against the student wearing the kirpan to school, as it violated the school's code of conduct prohibition against wear­ing weap­ons and dangerous objects - The decision infringed the student's Charter right to freedom of religion - The Supreme Court of Canada held that the absolute prohibi­tion was not a reasonable limit prescribed by law (Charter, s. 1) - Coun­cil's decision was a nullity - The objective of ensuring a reasonable level of safety in schools was a pressing and substantial one, sufficient to warrant overriding a constitu­tionally pro­tected right - The absolute prohibition had a rational connection with the objective - However, the absolute prohibition did not minimally impair the student's religious rights - An absolute prohibition did not fall within the range of "reasonable alterna­tives" - There was little risk of the student using the kirpan for violent purposes - The student agreed to wear it subject to condi­tions (sealed inside his clothing) - There was no evidence of incidents involving kirpans in Canadian schools - The court re­jected the council's argument that kirpans were inherently dangerous and could have a negative impact on the school environ­ment - The council had a duty to accom­mo­date the student by allowing him to wear the kirpan subject to reasonable conditions - See paragraphs 32 to 82.

Civil Rights - Topic 8348

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Ap­plication - Exceptions - Reasonable limits prescribed by law (Charter, s. 1) - [See Civil Rights - Topic 390.3 ].

Civil Rights - Topic 8581.2

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Prac­tice - Judicial review (incl. standard of review) - A school board council of com­missioners upheld a decision absolutely pro­­hibiting a Sikh student from wearing a kirpan to school - The prohibition violated the student's Charter right to freedom of religion - The substantive issue was whether the prohibition was saved under s. 1 of the Charter - The Quebec Court of Ap­­peal applied the administrative law standard of review (reasonableness sim­pliciter) in its s. 1 analysis - The Supreme Court of Canada, Deschamps and Abella, JJ., dissenting on this issue, stated that "the fact that an issue relating to con­stitutional rights is raised in an administra­tive context does not mean that the consti­tutional law standards must be dissolved into the ad­min­istrative law standards" - Notwithstand­ing that judicial review may involve both constitutional and adminis­trative law com­ponents, the administrative law standard of review did not apply to the constitutional component of judicial review - The issue in this case was compliance of council's decision with the Charter, not the decis­ion's validity from an administrative law point of view - The council's decision had to be jus­tified by applying the Oakes test, not on the basis of reason­ableness - See para­graphs 15 to 23.

Education - Topic 755

Education authorities - School commis­sions or boards - Powers respecting stu­dents - Religious symbols (kirpans, etc.) - [See Civil Rights - Topic 390.3 ].

Education - Topic 827

Education authorities - School commis­sions or boards - Decisions - Judicial re­view (incl. standard of review) - [See Civil Rights - Topic 8581.2 ].

Cases Noticed:

R. v. Oakes, [1986] 1 S.C.R. 103; 65 N.R. 87; 14 O.A.C. 335, refd to. [paras. 12, 119, 140].

Chamberlain et al. v. Board of Education of School District No. 36 (Surrey), [2002] 4 S.C.R. 710; 299 N.R. 1; 175 B.C.A.C. 161; 289 W.A.C. 161; 2002 SCC 86, refd to. [paras. 15, 94].

Dr. Q., Re, [2003] 1 S.C.R. 226; 302 N.R. 34; 179 B.C.A.C. 170; 295 W.A.C. 170; 2003 SCC 19, refd to. [paras. 15, 102].

Davidson v. Slaight Communications Inc., [1989] 1 S.C.R. 1038; 93 N.R. 183, refd to. [paras. 16, 102].

Ross v. New Brunswick School District No. 15 - see Attis v. Board of Education of District No. 15 et al.

Attis v. Board of Education of District No. 15 et al., [1996] 1 S.C.R. 825; 195 N.R. 81; 171 N.B.R.(2d) 321; 437 A.P.R. 321, refd to. [paras. 16, 102].

Workers' Compensation Board (N.S.) v. Mar­tin et al., [2003] 2 S.C.R. 504; 310 N.R. 22; 217 N.S.R.(2d) 301; 683 A.P.R. 301; 2003 SCC 54, refd to. [paras. 20, 93].

Eldridge et al. v. British Columbia (At­torney General) et al., [1997] 3 S.C.R. 624; 218 N.R. 161; 96 B.C.A.C. 81; 155 W.A.C. 81, refd to. [paras. 22, 106].

Little Sisters Book and Art Emporium et al. v. Canada (Minister of Justice) et al., [2000] 2 S.C.R. 1120; 263 N.R. 203; 145 B.C.A.C. 1; 237 W.A.C. 1; 2000 SCC 69, refd to. [para. 22].

Trinity Western University et al. v. Col­lege of Teachers (B.C.) et al., [2001] 1 S.C.R. 772; 269 N.R. 1; 151 B.C.A.C. 161; 249 W.A.C. 161; 2001 SCC 31, refd to. [paras. 25, 94].

R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd., [1985] 1 S.C.R. 295; 58 N.R. 81; 60 A.R. 161, refd to. [para. 26].

Syndicat Northcrest v. Amselem et al., [2004] 2 S.C.R. 551; 323 N.R. 59; 2004 SCC 47, refd to. [para. 26].

R.B. v. Children's Aid Society of Metro­politan Toronto - see Sheena B., Re.

Sheena B., Re, [1995] 1 S.C.R. 315; 176 N.R. 161; 78 O.A.C. 1, refd to. [para. 26].

R. v. Keegstra, [1990] 3 S.C.R. 697; 117 N.R. 1; 114 A.R. 81, refd to. [para. 30].

Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v. Dagenais et al., [1994] 3 S.C.R. 835; 175 N.R. 1; 76 O.A.C. 81, refd to. [paras. 30, 150].

R. v. Edwards Books and Art Ltd. - see R. v. Videoflicks Ltd. et al.

R. v. Videoflicks Ltd. et al., [1986] 2 S.C.R. 713; 71 N.R. 161; 19 O.A.C. 239, refd to. [para. 43].

Superintendent of Motor Vehicles (B.C.) et al. v. Council of Human Rights (B.C.), [1999] 3 S.C.R. 868; 249 N.R. 45; 131 B.C.A.C. 280; 214 W.A.C. 280, refd to. [para. 45].

RJR-MacDonald Inc. et Imperial Tobacco Ltd. v. Canada (Procureur général), [1995] 3 S.C.R. 199; 187 N.R. 1, refd to. [para. 50].

Pandori v. Board of Education of Peel - see Human Rights Commission (Ont.) et al. v. Board of Education of Peel.

Human Rights Commission (Ont.) et al. v. Board of Education of Peel (1990), 12 C.H.R.R. D/364 (Ont. Bd. of Inquiry), affd. (1991), 47 O.A.C. 234; 3 O.R.(3d) 531 (Div. Ct.), leave to appeal refused (1991), 3 O.R.(3d) 531 (Ont. C.A.), refd to. [para. 60].

R. v. Hothi, [1985] 3 W.W.R. 256; 33 Man.R.(2d) 180 (Q.B.), affd. [1986] 3 W.W.R. 671; 35 Man.R.(2d) 159 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 62].

Nijjar v. Canada 3000 Airlines Ltd., [1999] C.H.R.D. No. 3, refd to. [para. 62].

R. v. M.R.M., [1998] 3 S.C.R. 393; 233 N.R. 1; 171 N.S.R.(2d) 125; 519 A.P.R. 125, refd to. [para. 78].

Baker v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), [1999] 2 S.C.R. 817; 243 N.R. 22, refd to. [para. 86].

Douglas/Kwantlen Faculty Association v. Douglas College, [1990] 3 S.C.R. 570; 118 N.R. 340, refd to. [para. 101].

Social Services Administration Board (Parry Sound District) v. Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Local 324 et al., [2003] 2 S.C.R. 157; 308 N.R. 271; 177 O.A.C. 235; 2003 SCC 42, refd to. [para. 101].

Canadian Union of Public Employees, Lo­cal 963 v. New Brunswick Liquor Corp., [1979] 2 S.C.R. 227; 26 N.R. 341; 25 N.B.R.(2d) 237; 51 A.P.R. 237, refd to. [para. 102].

Syndicat des employés de production du Québec et de l'Acadie v. Canada Labour Relations Board - see Canadian Broad­casting Corp. v. Syndicat des employés de production du Québec et de l'Acadie.

Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v. Syndicat des employés de production du Québec et de l'Acadie, [1984] 2 S.C.R. 412; 55 N.R. 321, refd to. [para. 102].

R. v. Therens, [1985] 1 S.C.R. 613; 59 N.R. 122; 40 Sask.R. 122, refd to. [para. 114].

Dolphin Delivery Ltd. v. Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, Local 580, Peterson and Alexander, [1986] 2 S.C.R. 573; 71 N.R. 83, refd to. [para. 122].

Human Rights Commission (Ont.) and O'Mal­ley v. Simpsons-Sears, [1985] 2 S.C.R. 536; 64 N.R. 161; 12 O.A.C. 241, refd to. [para. 130].

Canadian National Railway Co. v. Bhinder and Canadian Human Rights Com­mis­sion, [1985] 2 S.C.R. 561; 63 N.R. 185, refd to. [para. 130].

Public Service Employee Relations Com­mis­sion (B.C.) v. British Columbia Gov­ernment and Service Employees' Union, [1999] 3 S.C.R. 3; 244 N.R. 145; 127 B.C.A.C. 161; 207 W.A.C. 161, refd to. [para. 130].

Superintendent of Motor Vehicles (B.C.) et al. v. Council of Human Rights (B.C.), [1999] 3 S.C.R. 868; 249 N.R. 45; 131 B.C.A.C. 280; 214 W.A.C. 280, refd to. [para. 130].

Blencoe v. Human Rights Commission (B.C.) et al., [2000] 2 S.C.R. 307; 260 N.R. 1; 141 B.C.A.C. 161; 231 W.A.C. 161; 2000 SCC 44, refd to. [para. 144].

Young v. Young et al., [1993] 4 S.C.R. 3; 160 N.R. 1; 34 B.C.A.C. 161; 56 W.A.C. 161, refd to. [para. 149].

Montreal (City) v. 2952-1366 Québec Inc., [2005] 3 S.C.R. 141; 340 N.R. 305; 2005 SCC 62, refd to. [para. 149].

Authors and Works Noticed:

Beaudoin, Gérald-A., and Mendes, Errol, The Canadian Charter of Rights and Free­doms (4th Ed. 2005), pp. 172 [paras. 117]; 173 [paras. 117, 118].

Brun, Henri, and Tremblay, Guy, Droit constitutionnel (4th Ed. 2002), p. 944 [para. 115].

Garant, Patrice, Droit administratif (3rd Ed. 1992), vol. 3, pp. xxxv [para. 116].

Garant, Patrice, Droit scolaire (2nd Ed. 1992), pp. 319 to 345 [para. 154].

Mendes, Errol, The Crucible of the Char­ter: Judicial Principles v. Judicial Defer­ence in the Context of Section 1, in Beaudoin, Gérald-A., and Mendes, Errol, The Canadian Charter of Rights and Free­doms (4th Ed. 2005), pp. 172 [para. 117]; 173 [paras. 117, 118].

Perrault, Gabrielle, Le contrôle judiciaire des décisions de l'administration: De l'er­reur juridictionnelle à la norme de contrôle (2002), p. 51 [para. 102].

Pinard, Danielle, Les seules règles de droit qui peuvent poser des limites aux droits et libertés constitutionnellement protégés et l'arrêt Slaight Communications (1991-92), 1 N.J.C.L. 79, p. 119 [para. 116].

Woehrling, José, L'obligation d'accom­modement raisonnable et l'adaptation de la société à la diversité religieuse (1998), 43 McGill L.J. 325, p. 360 [para. 53].

Counsel:

Julius H. Grey, Lynne-Marie Casgrain, Elisabeth Goodwin and Jean Philippe Desmarais, for the appellants;

François Aquin and Carla Chamass, for the respondent, Commission scolaire Mar­guerite-Bourgeoys;

René Bourassa and Hugo Jean, for the re­spondent, Attorney General of Quebec;

Palbinder K. Shergill, for the intervenor, World Sikh Organization of Canada;

Mahmud Jamal and Patricia McMahon, for the intervenor, Canadian Civil Liberties Association;

Philippe Dufresne, for the intervenor, Canadian Human Rights Commission;

Raj Dhir and Anthony D. Griffin, for the intervenor, Ontario Human Rights Com­mission.

Solicitors of Record:

Grey, Casgrain, Montreal, Quebec, for the appellants;

François Aquin, Montreal, Quebec, for the respondent, Commission scolaire Mar­guerite-Bourgeoys;

Bernard, Roy & Associés, Montreal, Que­bec, for the respondent, Attorney General of Quebec;

Peterson, Stark, Scott, Surrey, B.C., for the intervenor, World Sikh Organization of Can­ada;

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, Toronto, On­tario, for the intervenor, Canadian Civil Liberties Association;

Canadian Human Rights Commission, Ot­tawa, Ontario, for the intervenor, Cana­dian Human Rights Commission;

On­tario Human Rights Commission, Tor­on­to, Ontario, for the intervenor, Ontario Human Rights Commission.

This appeal was heard on April 12, 2005, before McLachlin, C.J.C., Major, Bastarache, Binnie, LeBel, Deschamps, Fish, Abella and Charron, JJ., of the Supreme Court of Can­ada.

On March 2, 2006, the judgment of the Court was delivered in both official languages and the following opinions were filed:

Charron, J. (McLachlin, C.J.C., Basta­rache, Binnie and Fish, JJ., concurring) - see paragraphs 1 to 83;

Deschamps and Abella, JJ. - see para­graphs 84 to 139;

LeBel, J. - see paragraphs 140 to 155.

*Major, J., did not participate in the judgment.

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