Religious Freedom in Canada - Person celebrating religious freedom in Canada

Take Action 2019: Learn more and take action on Conscience Rights in your province.

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.

Related Themes

Religious Freedom in Canada

Canada Summer Jobs Grants Policy Change

To be eligible for a 2018 grant program, the government required organizations to affirm the government's view on issues such as abortion. The EFC signed an interfaith letter with more than 90 other leaders objecting to this policy, and in 2019 the government revised the attestation significantly. Read more.

Trinity Western Law School

Three provincial law societies decided not to accredit Trinity Western University’s proposed law school. The law societies objected to the Christian university’s community covenant, in which students and faculty agree to abstain from sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage. The Supreme Court announced a disappointing decision in the case in June 2018. Read more.

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Bill C-51 aims to remove outdated and redundant elements of the Criminal Code.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 was slated for removal in the first draft of this bill. The EFC argued the law should be modernized and preserved, rather than being removed. The Justice Committee agreed to maintain and modernize that section of the bill. It was passed in December 2018 with protection for religious leaders and worship services.

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, launched by Christian doctors and several organizations, received a disappointing ruling in January 2018. A lower court decision in a challenge of this policy found the Christian doctors' freedom of religion was infringed but that it was justified. The Ontario Court of Appeal released another disappointing ruling in January 2019. The EFC co-intervened with partners to argue for freedom of religion and conscience. Learn more about what you can do.

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.


  • 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