Organized jointly by the Council of Europe, the European Commission and the Government of Québec, a conference called “Interacting in diversity for social cohesion” was held in Strasbourg on December 7 and 8. Europe and the world are changing, and public institutions have to meet growing user demand for adapted services.
Québec’s experience with “reasonable accommodation” practices has generated cross-Atlantic dialogue.
Can the concept of reasonable accommodation be applied in the European context of citizenship and non-discrimination, in order to meet the need for institutional change? Two Québec experts, Myriam Jézéquel of the Université de Montréal and Pierre Bosset of the Université du Québec, described Québec’s experience in this area. The Québec context was juxtaposed with that in Europe, as described by experts from the University of Louvain, the London School of Economics and the University of Belgrade.
A debate on the role of judges in taking reasonable accommodation into account in the area of public services was led by Gérard Bouchard, co-chair of a Québec commission on accommodation practices and cultural differences. Claire L’Heureux-Dubé, a retired judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, and Françoise Tulkens, judge at the European Court of Human Rights, shared their views on the issue.
A roundtable on intercultural dialogue as a tool for action was an opportunity for François Fournier, a consultant on the sociopolitical issues raised by reasonable accommodation, to express his ideas.
Québec’s Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities, Yolande James, travelled to Strasbourg to take part in the conference, which brought together public officials, researchers, academics, social stakeholders and legal experts, all of them eager to identify solutions for enhanced co-existence in our pluralistic societies.