Is freedom of religion guaranteed for all Canadians?
According to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
, it would seem so. The preamble of the Charter
states, “Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.” Section 2(a)
of the Charter
guarantees “freedom of conscience and religion” and is the first fundamental freedom listed. And Section 15
protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of religion, among other things.
Religious freedom matters to all Canadians. Without religious freedom, the other freedoms protected in the Charter
– freedom of belief, expression, association—are all called into question and are also threatened. As we promote religious freedom, we seek the well-being of our country. Canada is a better place for everyone
when freedom of religion is respected and protected.
Religious freedom, and freedom from discrimination on the basis of religion, are fundamental to people of faith. As Christians, our focus is on being faithful to God. We want our hearts, our beliefs, and our actions to honour him as we seek to live out his calling on our lives. Consequently, we cherish the freedom to live lives pleasing to God – both in private and
Scripture teaches us that faith without deeds is dead (James 2:26). It is not enough to claim to believe something if we are prevented from acting out those beliefs. In order to be transformed into Christ’s image by God’s grace (Romans 12:1-2), we have to both believe and
Religious freedom allows us to seek after God and to worship Him without hindrance or fear. Religious freedom means being able to gather freely as a faith community, to teach biblical truths, to do good works, and to share our faith with others.
Unfortunately, with increasing frequency, Canadians are facing restrictions and discrimination for holding and publicly expressing certain views – like the view that marriage was instituted by God to be a sacred union between one man and one woman; or the view that every life is a gift from God, deserving of respect and protection at every stage and in every condition, from conception to natural death. Let me just highlight a few instances…
A Christian university in B.C. was told its proposed law school would not be accredited because the school’s community covenant restricted sexual intimacy to married heterosexual couples.
A university student was expelled from a medical school in Manitoba for posting his pro-life views on social media. And a student in Ontario was suspended from his Christian high school for refusing to take back comments he made in class that there are only two genders.
In 2018, many faith-based organizations, including many EFC affiliates, had their Canada Summer Jobs federal grant applications rejected because they could not declare that they shared the government’s pro-abortion stance. Similarly, in January 2023, pro-life charities wishing to apply for the Community Services Recovery Fund to help their post-pandemic recovery efforts have been told they are ineligible.
For Ontario physicians who refuse to participate in doctor-assisted suicide and euthanasia because they object to the taking of human lives, they are being told to comply or face losing their licences to practice.
In 2021, a law banning conversion therapy was passed. The law was intended to ban abusive behaviour, but its lack of clarity raises concerns that the law could capture biblically-based teaching and counselling.
The first religious freedom case made its way to Canada’s Supreme Court in 1985. Since then, the number of cases that have challenged freedoms of religion and expression have grown. The EFC has intervened in many of these court cases in defense of religious freedom. There’s too much at stake not to be involved.
Recently, pro-abortion groups have been pressuring the government to remove the charitable status of Pregnancy Care Centres. Why? Because, while these Christian-based, pro-life centres offer comprehensive support services for pregnant women, the one thing they won’t advise, or offer, is abortion. Other charitable organizations – from churches to bible camps – are concerned that such a policy change, if applied broadly, could impact their charitable status as well.
In a free and democratic society, everyone should be free to disagree with a government’s policies and values without fear of unfair treatment Eligibility for government programs or benefits (like grants or charitable status) should not depend on one’s affirmation or agreement with the ruling government’s values. Imposing such values tests violates the very rights the Charter
is designed to protect.
We can’t take religious freedom for granted. Will you help the EFC continue to work to preserve it? Remember: religious freedom is not only for our good as Christians; it’s for the good of all who call Canada home.
We need your help
. Will you please pray for religious freedom in Canada to be protected and respected, for Canadians to be able to continue to exercise their faith without hindrance, and for God to be glorified in our good works? And would you please consider making a financial gift today in support of the EFC’s work in defending our religious freedoms? Your support is crucial to carrying on this ministry!
Dr. David Guretzki
President & CEO