American Jewish Yearbook (Canada, 1953)


Extract, American Jewish Yearbook (Canada, 1953)

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In last year’s survey (see American Jewish Year Book, Vol. 53, p.263) we reported the case of Jewish unemployed workers whose claim for unemployment insurance benefits for Saturdays had been disallowed on the ground that they would not have worked Saturdays even if employment had been available.

An appeal against the Unemployment Insurance Officer’s ruling was made to a Court of Referees, and then to Justice Alfred Savard at Ottawa, acting as umpire under the Unemployment Insurance Act, on the ground that refusal of unemployment insurance compensation to workers in factories operating on a five-day-week basis whose religious beliefs did not permit them to accept employment on Saturdays resulted in discrimination against members of religious minority groups.

While the appeals were dismissed, the government recognized the existence of a legitimate grievance, and the Unemployment Insurance Commission on July 1, 1951, enacted a regulation that “where a claimant proves to the satisfaction of an insurance officer that his religious beliefs are such that he ob-

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serves the Sabbath on Saturday, he is entitled to receive benefit for Sunday provided he fulfils all the conditions of entitlement to benefit in respect of that Sunday.”  On July 12, 1952, Justice Alfred Savard stated, in upholding the rulings of the Unemployment Insurance officer and the Court of Referees, that “the presumption is that this new regulation was made to correct [sic] and, while it cannot be given retroactive effect, the principle which was at stake in the present appeal, namely that a claimant should not be prejudiced under the Act when because of his religious beliefs he cannot accept work on Saturday, has therefore been upheld.”