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Religious Freedom in Canada - Person celebrating religious freedom in Canada Religious freedom is critical to our quest to know and worship God. Living out our religious beliefs includes gathering together to worship God, teach, do good works, and share our faith. Religious freedom is the ability to hold religious beliefs and live them out, personally and in community, privately and publicly. 

Canada is a nation in which people of different faiths live side by side. Canadian law and society recognize the significance of religious belief and practice. Freedom of conscience and religion are the first fundamental freedoms listed in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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Religious Freedom in Canada

Trinity Western Law School

Three provincial law societies have decided not to accredit Trinity Western University’s proposed law school. The law societies object to the Christian university’s community covenant, in which students and faculty agree to abstain from sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage. Court challenges have been heard at lower courts and appeal courts in Ontario, Nova Scotia and British Columbia. The EFC and Christian Higher Education Canada have intervened in all three provinces. The case will be heard by the Supreme Court on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 2017 after two provincial court of appeal decisions were appealed to the Supreme Court, one in favour and one opposed to accrediting TWU’s law school.

Ktunaxa First Nation

The Ktunaxa people of British Columbia and other Indigenous nations object to the building of a ski resort on land that has deep religious significance to them. The EFC intervened in this case before the Supreme Court to argue for a full and robust understanding of religious freedom. The court released its decision Nov. 2, 2017, and the EFC responded with a media release.

Preserving Legal Protections for Religious Leaders and Worship Services

Bill C-51 aims to remove outdated and redundant elements of the Criminal Code. An item that makes it illegal to interfere with worship services and the work of religious leaders is slated for removal. The EFC argues the law should be modernized and preserved, rather than being removed. The Justice Committee has recommended retaining the protection for religious leaders and worship services. Those changes will go back to the House of Commons for debate and a final vote.

Conscience protection in Ontario

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario is requiring doctors to provide an effective referral for procedures against their conscientious objection, such as euthanasia and assisted suicide. A court challenge of this policy has been launched by Christian doctors and several organizations. The EFC intervened in this case to argue for protection of conscience.

Submissions to government on these issues

Jump to our Government page to see more detailed documents we have submitted on these issues.

Religious freedom concerns may arise in any area of life, including the workplace, schools, governance structures and more.

Religious freedom is one of the first fundamental freedoms listed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is also protected in provincial human rights codes. Religious freedom is also protected in specific areas of federal and provincial legislation, as well as international human rights agreements.

The Charter upholds freedom of religion, but does not define it. The courts are clarifying what this term means and how it is to be applied, including how the Charter protection of religious freedom will be balanced with other Charter guarantees.

As Canadian society becomes increasingly secular, there is more dialogue and more friction at the intersection of religion and public life. How religious beliefs, expression and practice are treated by government and in the private sector is a subject of ongoing discussion. 

The EFC promotes religious freedom and the freedom of religious communities to exist and flourish. The EFC has intervened in many important legal cases on religious freedom and has influenced key decisions.
We are created by God to seek Him and know Him. God intends humanity to be free in this quest to know Him and worship Him in fullness and in truth. God gives us freedom to choose whom we will worship and serve. 

Our faith in God gives meaning and purpose to life. It shapes our understanding of the world and our place in it. Our common beliefs and actions bind us together and provide a foundational source of identity.

Living out our religious beliefs includes gathering together to worship God, teach, do good works and share our faith. Religious freedom is the ability to hold religious beliefs and live them out, personally and in community, privately and publicly.

Religious freedom is critical to our quest to know and worship God, and includes the right to change one’s faith.

History shows that when religious freedom is protected, all other rights and freedoms are more secure. When religious freedom is curtailed, other freedoms are soon compromised and lost.

Freedom of religion affects everyone. If courts restrict religious expression and practices, even those of another religion, it may affect every believer in Canada.

Pray

  • Offering thanks to God for the freedom of religion we currently enjoy
  • For boldness to follow God’s calling to be salt and light
  • For our nation to allow religious communities to exist and flourish
  • For wisdom for the courts and elected officials 

Become involved

  • Foster positive dialogue with friends, neighbours and co-workers about the role of religious beliefs and communities
  • If you encounter disinformation about religious beliefs, address it respectfully and graciously
  • Support interventions in court cases that will influence how religious freedom in Canada is understood
  • Ask legislators to uphold and strengthen protection for religious freedom
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