The EFC supports religious expression

30 May 2024
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As Canadian Christians, we all care deeply about being able to hold and express our beliefs.  Searching the Scriptures, sharing our faith and teaching our children are vital elements of our Christian life. At the same time, we are all aware that some of our beliefs are not widely held or popular in Canadian culture.

But we believe God calls Christians to seek good laws for our country – laws that support life, help those who are vulnerable and make room for religious expression and practice. That’s why one of the EFC’s centres engages directly with federal laws and provides resources to equip you to engage as well.

EFC donors do engage, and we are very thankful for that. You hear the call and respond both financially, prayerfully and with practical action steps again and again.

The limits of speech and what constitutes hate speech have become major topics of discussion in Canada. This follows an increase in hate crimes and hate speech, especially online.

Legislators are looking for ways to address these concerns. The EFC shares these concerns, but we want to ensure any efforts to address them allow for sincere religious expression.

A Bloc MP has introduced a private member’s bill, Bill C-367, to remove the religious expression defense from the Criminal Code offence of promoting hatred.

If a person is found to have wilfully promoted hatred, the Criminal Code provides a defence if the person was, in good faith, expressing an opinion on a religious subject or based on a belief in a religious text. The court would then determine if the defence could be used.

The defence ensures the law will not be used to silence minority religious beliefs. When the Supreme Court reviewed this law, all its defences were considered vital to ensuring a balance between the protection of minorities and freedom of expression.

In practice, the defence is considered only after the court has determined a person has wilfully promoted hatred against someone because they belong to a protected group. The Criminal Code doesn’t allow a person to say any hateful thing and claim it is religious expression. It only protects opinions expressed in good faith.

The religious expression defence has rarely been invoked and has never been successfully used. But it is important that it exists just in case it is needed.

The bill that would remove the defence is a private members bill, which means it would be on a slower track to be debated and voted on, and less likely to pass.

Another MP has proposed that a removal of the religious expression defence be added to a government bill on online harms, Bill C-63. Government bills tend to move more quickly through Parliament and have a much greater chance of passing.

So, there are now two proposals to remove the religious expression defence. Why does the desire to remove the religious expression defence exist?

Some groups want to see this defence removed because they are concerned it will be improperly used to shelter hateful speech. An example given of hateful speech in a religious context is the imam at a rally in Montreal last October who prayed for the extermination of “Zionist aggressors.” A criminal complaint has been made and police are investigating whether to lay charges.

While the religious expression defence has rarely been used, it provides protection for the sincerely held religious opinions of minority groups.

The EFC believes Canada must grapple with how to address the rising tide of hateful and violent speech and actions, but in a way that doesn’t have unintended consequences or stifle good faith religious expression.

The EFC will be asking MPs to keep this defence in the Criminal Code. As always, EFC donors and partners are a huge part of our work. You can keep informed about how you can engage at Whenever you have a question about our work, you can also reach out by phone or email.

How you can help

  • Read! Read up about this bill and others at
  • Respond! We often invite you to partner with us by reaching out to MPs and sharing insights and your opinion. This works. Please keep working with us. We are more effective together.
  • Relay! Share this information with others in your circle. Word of mouth is very important in increasing people’s awareness of bills like this one.

Also in this issue: EFC media studio turns on the lights, PRN issues public letter about peace in Ukraine, A note from the EFC President.