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Religious & Cultural Observances

Ryerson’s commitment and obligation to accommodate

Ryerson University is committed to respecting the religious, cultural and spiritual beliefs and practices of all members of the university community. This means providing students, faculty and staff with equitable treatment based on faith and access to accommodation of religious observances as needed.

These commitments are informed by the Ontario Human Rights Code and Ryerson’s Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy, in which everyone is entitled to be free from discrimination and harassment on a number of prohibited grounds, including religion, faith or lack of religion of faith. This right also incorporates the entitlement to have one's religious practices accommodated by providers of public services and facilities, such as universities.

Learn more about creed, a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code

The obligation to accommodate is mandatory, not discretionary. Ryerson’s policy also outlines accommodation for spiritual and Aboriginal observances.

What is a religious accommodation?

Religious accommodation is the right to have time away from study or work to practice the tenets of one’s faith, as long as it does not cause the university undue hardship. 

Calendar to support the planning of course schedules and activities

Human Rights Services offers annual calendars of religious and spiritual observances as a tool to assist the Ryerson community in planning course schedules and activities. The lists are not exhaustive and are frequently updated as members of the community identify observances to Human Rights Services.

If you are planning an activity, be it an event or examination in class, we encourage you to refer to the list in advance. A date on the list does not necessarily mean you should avoid the date, but it does signal that there may be individuals who may not be able to attend and/or require accommodation. All members of the community are encouraged to bear this in mind when planning activities.

Accommodating Indigenous observances

The spirituality and cultural observances of Indiginous Peoples (First Nations, Métis, Inuit, status and non-status) cannot be easily defined and are not reflected in the calendars. Indigenous spiritual and cultural observances may include ceremonies that are connected to the seasons or to life stages.

Ryerson should make every effort to recognize and accommodate Inidigenous People in our community so they may fulfill their spiritual and cultural responsibilities.

Faculty and supervisors: Your responsibilities 

The university’s Religious, Aboriginal and Spiritual Observance Policy requires faculty and staff to accommodate students to the greatest extent possible. 

Requests from students 

PDF fileStudent requests for accommodation of student religious, Aboriginal and spiritual observance form

Instructions for handling requests for accommodation can be found on the second page. Faculty are encouraged to work with students to reach an agreement on a reasonable means to address any missed work or exams.

Requests from employees

For information on religious observance accommodation for faculty and staff, please review the Accommodation of Religious Observances details on the Human Resources website.

Frequently asked questions

Undue hardship is determined on a case-by-case basis. Undue hardship is determined by considering the cost (relative to the overall budget of the university), outside sources of funding (if applicable), and health and safety requirements.

Generally speaking, to show undue hardship Ryerson would need to prove that accommodating a religious practice for a student, staff or faculty member would create onerous conditions.

Yes. The university must ensure that it accommodates religious, spiritual and Indigenous observance but it is not a requirement under the Ontario Human Rights Code to accommodate cultural observance.

Students or instructors who require advice on cultural observance are invited to consult with Human Rights Services for further information at 416-979-5349 or humanrights@ryerson.ca.

The spirituality and cultural observances of Indigenous Peoples (First Nations, Métis, Inuit, status and non-status) cannot be easily defined. They reflect a diverse collection of distinct cultures and belief systems that are both dynamic and evolving. 

In general, Indigenous spiritual and cultural observances may include ceremonies that are connected to the seasons or to life stages (for example, birth, naming, coming of age, weddings, funerals, remembrances). For an Indigenous person, participation in such ceremonies may be considered a profound personal responsibility that takes precedence over other social obligations.

Ryerson and its faculty and staff should make every effort to recognize and accommodate Indigenous people in the Ryerson community so that they are able to fulfill their spiritual and cultural responsibilities.

Observances may restrict participation in course activities, including:

  • absence from class or work
  • absence from scheduled exams
  • absence from scheduled placement or clinical settings
  • following specific dress codes
  • temporary absence from class for daily prayers, fasting or breaking a fast while attending class
  • absence from other required activities outlined in the course syllabus

Accommodations should prevent academic disadvantage or penalty to students. Instructors are encouraged to consult with Human Rights Services for further information at 416-979-5349 or humanrights@ryerson.ca.

No. Under the Ontario Human Rights Code and Ryerson's Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy all instructors are required to accommodate religious needs, up to the point of undue hardship. Instructors cannot ignore obligations under human rights law.

Religious, Indigenous and spiritual observances are often highly personal and subjective. They require that instructors accept the sincerely held beliefs of students at face value and accommodate through informal or formal procedures.

Yes. Some people, such as Orthodox Jews and Seventh Day Adventists, practice their religious faith by worshipping from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday. Therefore, they are required to be away from work and study during these times. These practices all trigger the duty to accommodate.

No. Christianity is a religion like any other, and the right to accommodation is similar to those in other faith communities.

Ryerson policy notes that “Religious, Aboriginal or spiritual observances are often highly personal and subjective. This requires that instructors accept the sincerely held beliefs of students at face value and accommodate and address issues, through informal or formal procedures detailed in this policy."

Members of a given faith who are more observant on some issues are not taking advantage of their religion, they simply experience or express their faith differently from other members of their faith.

Questions?

While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and a reasonable compilation of dates, we encourage you to reach out to Human Rights Services to advise of any errors or omissions of religious observances dates at humanrights@ryerson.ca or  416-979-5349.