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Accommodation: Religious Observances

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Religious Accommodation Overview

The University’s expectations on this matter are articulated in the Policy on Scheduling of Classes and Examinations and Other Accommodations for Religious Observances.

As noted in the Policy, the University welcomes and includes students, staff, and faculty from a wide range of backgrounds, cultural traditions, and spiritual beliefs. The Policy includes the following provisions:

  • It is the policy of the University of Toronto to arrange reasonable accommodation of the needs of students who observe religious holy days other than those already accommodated by ordinary scheduling and statutory holidays.
  • Students have a responsibility to alert members of the teaching staff in a timely fashion to upcoming religious observances and anticipated absences. Instructors will make every reasonable effort to avoid scheduling tests, examinations, or other compulsory activities at these times. If compulsory activities are unavoidable, every reasonable opportunity should be given to these students to make up work that they miss, particularly in courses involving laboratory work. When the scheduling of tests or examinations cannot be avoided, students should be informed of the procedure to be followed to arrange to write at an alternate time.
  • It is most important that no student be seriously disadvantaged because of their religious observances. However, in the scheduling of academic and other activities, it is also important to ensure that the accommodation of one group does not seriously disadvantage other groups within the University community.

Please note that the obligation not to discriminate on the basis of religion (“creed”) is a statutory duty arising from the Ontario Human Rights Code. It carries with it the obligation to accommodate religious requirements where doing so does not cause undue hardship to the University. For example, accommodation normally requires that scheduled graded term work or tests conflicting with religious requirements be adjusted by providing similar evaluation on alternate dates.

Students who will miss an examination due to a religious observance should not normally be charged an examination deferral fee. However, all other normal examination deferral procedures should apply. With respect to minimum advance notice, the Policy provides that “Students have a responsibility to alert members of the teaching staff in a timely fashion to upcoming religious observances and anticipated absences.” Since students would normally be aware of upcoming religious observances as well as examination schedules in advance, a minimum of three weeks advance notice should be considered sufficient.

Letters/documentation from faith leaders to support requests for accommodation should not be requested. The University does not request this documentation because doing so would imply a potential assessment of the sincerity of the religious practice, and not all faith traditions necessitate involvement in an organized faith community.

The following are examples of requests that students may make to be excused from classes or examinations: Holy Days; on Fridays at 1:00 p.m. for Muslim community prayers; or on the Jewish Sabbath (one-and a-half hours before sunset Friday to one-and-a-half hours after sunset Saturday).

Relevant Dates 2021-22
  • Many of the relevant dates for the 2021-22 academic year are outlined in the table appended below. These dates are provided to assist instructors and those planning academic activities to anticipate when students might choose to seek accommodations for religious observances. Additional dates of religious observances may be found in the Interfaith Calendar and additional resources can be found on the HR & Equity website.

    It is important to note that there are many holy days associated with various faiths and that the absence of such dates on this list should not be interpreted to mean that there should be no accommodation for students who observe those holy days.

    Finally, some observances are based on an interpretation of the lunar calendar, and thus may vary by one or two days depending upon the interpretation relevant to a student’s faith tradition.

    For assistance in interpreting the Policy and for support in the development of divisional or departmental procedures which are consistent with the Policy, please contact Meredith Strong, Director, Office of the Vice-Provost, Students and Student Policy Advisor at 416-978-4027 or meredith.strong@utoronto.ca.

    May 2021 to June 2022

    Ramadan* Begins at sunset on April 12, 2021 and ends on May 12, 2021. Muslims may fast from dawn to dusk, abstaining from food and drink. Examinations scheduled in the evening may pose a special burden.
    Eid-al-Fitr* Begins at sunset on May 12, 2021 and ends on May 15, 2021
    Shavuot Begins at sunset on May 16, 2021 and ends on May 18, 2021
    National Indigenous Peoples Day June 21, 2021
    Tish’a B’av Begins at sunset on July 17, 2021 and ends on July 18, 2021
    Eid-al-Adha* Begins at sunset on July 19, 2021 and ends on July 23, 2021
    Rosh Hashanah Begins at sunset on September 6, 2021 and ends on September 8, 2021
    Yom Kippur Begins at sunset on September 15, 2021 and ends on September 16, 2021
    First two days of Sukkot Begins at sunset on September 20, 2021 and the second day ends on September 22, 2021
    Shemini Atzeret Begins at sunset on September 27, 2021 and ends on September 28, 2021
    Simchat Torah Begins at sunset on September 28, 2021 and ends on September 29, 2021
    National Day for Truth and Reconciliation September 30, 2021
    Diwali November 4, 2021
    Hanukkah Begins at sunset on November 28, 2021 and ends on December 6, 2021
    Epiphany January 6, 2022
    Feast of the Nativity (Orthodox) January 7, 2022
    Lunar New Year February 1, 2022
    Ash Wednesday March 2, 2022
    Purim Begins at sunset on March 16, 2022 and ends on March 17, 2022
    Norooz March 21, 2022
    Ramadan* Begins at sunset on April 2, 2022 and ends on May 2, 2022. Muslims may fast from dawn to dusk, abstaining from food and drink. Examinations scheduled in the evening may pose a special burden.
    Maundy Thursday April 14, 2022
    First two days of Passover Begins at sunset on April 15, 2022 and ends on April 17, 2022
    Last two days of Passover Begins at sunset on April 21, 2022 and ends on April 23, 2022
    Holy Friday (Orthodox) April 22, 2022
    Easter (Orthodox) April 24, 2022
    Eid-al-Fitr* Begins at sunset on May 2, 2022 and ends on May 5, 2022
    Shavuot Begins at sunset on June 4, 2022 and ends on June 6, 2022
    National Indigenous Peoples Day June 21, 2022
    * Some observances are based on the lunar calendar, and thus may vary by one or two days.
    ** Information regarding the Hajj Pilgrimage is articulated in Accommodation for the Hajj Pilgrimage.
Relevant Dates 2022-23
  • Many of the relevant dates for the 2022-23 academic year are outlined in the table appended below. These dates are provided to assist instructors and those planning academic activities to anticipate when students might choose to seek accommodations for religious observances. Additional dates of religious observances may be found in the Interfaith Calendar and additional resources can be found on the HR & Equity website.

    It is important to note that there are many holy days associated with various faiths and that the absence of such dates on this list should not be interpreted to mean that there should be no accommodation for students who observe those holy days.

    Finally, some observances are based on an interpretation of the lunar calendar, and thus may vary by one or two days depending upon the interpretation relevant to a student’s faith tradition.

    For assistance in interpreting the Policy and for support in the development of divisional or departmental procedures which are consistent with the Policy, please contact Meredith Strong, Director, Office of the Vice-Provost, Students and Student Policy Advisor at 416-978-4027 or meredith.strong@utoronto.ca.

    May 2022 to June 2023

    Ramadan* Begins at sunset on April 2, 2022 and ends on May 2, 2022. Muslims may fast from dawn to dusk, abstaining from food and drink. Examinations scheduled in the evening may pose a special burden.
    Eid al-Fitr* Begins at sunset on May 2, 2022 and ends on May 5, 2022
    Shavuot Begins at sunset on June 4, 2022 and ends on June 6, 2022
    National Indigenous Peoples Day June 21, 2022
    Eid al-Adha* Begins at sunset on July 8, 2022 and ends on July 13, 2022
    Tisha B’av Begins at sunset on August 6, 2022 and ends on August 7, 2022
    Rosh Hashanah Begins at sunset on September 25, 2022 and ends on September 27, 2022
    National Day for Truth and Reconciliation September 30, 2022
    Yom Kippur Begins at sunset on October 4, 2022 and ends on October 5, 2022
    First two days of Sukkot Begins at sunset on October 9, 2022 and the second day ends on October 11, 2022
    Shemini Atzeret Begins at sunset on October 16, 2022 and ends on October 17, 2022
    Simchat Torah Begins at sunset on October 17, 2022 and ends on October 18, 2022
    Diwali October 24, 2022
    Hanukkah Begins at sunset on December 18, 2022 and ends on December 26, 2022
    Epiphany January 6, 2023
    Feast of the Nativity (Orthodox) January 7, 2023
    Lunar New Year January 22, 2023
    Ash Wednesday February 22, 2023
    Purim Begins at sunset on March 6, 2023 and ends on March 7, 2023
    Nowruz March 21, 2023
    Ramadan* Begins at sunset on March 22, 2023 and ends on April 21, 2023. Muslims may fast from dawn to dusk, abstaining from food and drink. Examinations scheduled in the evening may pose a special burden.
    First two days of Passover Begins at sunset on April 5, 2023 and ends on April 7, 2023
    Maundy Thursday April 6, 2023
    Last two days of Passover Begins at sunset on April 11, 2023 and ends at nightfall on April 13, 2023
    Holy Friday (Orthodox) April 14, 2023
    Easter (Orthodox) April 16, 2023
    Eid-al-Fitr* Begins at sunset on April 21, 2023 and ends on April 24, 2023
    Shavuot Begins at sunset on May 25, 2023 and ends on May 27, 2023
    National Indigenous Peoples Day June 21, 2023
    * Some observances are based on the lunar calendar, and thus may vary by one or two days.
    ** Information regarding the Hajj Pilgrimage is articulated in Accommodation for the Hajj Pilgrimage.
Accommodation for the Hajj Pilgrimage

The Hajj is a once-in-a-lifetime Pilgrimage to Mecca for some Muslims. As the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, the dates for the month of Dhu al-Hijjah change each year. Because the month must begin and end on sighting of the moon, the estimated dates for the Hajj over the next two years are as follows:

  • 2022
    • First day: on or around Thursday, July 7
    • Last day: on or around Tuesday, July 12
  • 2023
    • First day: on or around Monday, June 26
    • Last day: on or around Saturday, July 1

While the pilgrimage itself last only a limited number of days, pilgrims travel as a group and most groups leave a minimum of two weeks in advance in order to complete related obligations. The early departure means that students would likely have to leave at a time that may affect a number of academic activities. Furthermore, because of the dates being fixed for the entire group, there is often very little flexibility.

The Policy provides that “It is the policy of the University of Toronto to arrange reasonable accommodation of the needs of students who observe religious holy days other than those already accommodated by ordinary scheduling and statutory holidays.” While the Hajj is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation, there are several related factors that may compel our students to make the decision to attend to that rite of passage in any particular year and/or at a time that conflicts with a scheduled academic events or activities. These issues pertain to their potential need to accompany family members on this journey, as well as issues of financial ability.

It is not the University’s role to pass judgment of the necessity of students to partake in an activity that may be central to their faith, but rather to help determine what would comprise reasonable accommodation without causing undue hardship to the activities of the institution. With respect to final exams, the customary practice is to allow for exams to be deferred until the next exam period. Students should be encouraged to make the request through their college or divisional offices.