Freedom of religion

The issue

Regardless of what you believe or practice, and whether you subscribe to a particular set of religious beliefs or don’t, protecting freedom of religion is an important part of ensuring that all people are treated with equal dignity and respect.  Freedom of religion helps to ensure that religious minorities are not the subject of discrimination and also protects the rights of those whose beliefs may lie with the majority. Freedom of religion is also crucial to maintaining a private sphere for individuals and communities where the government does not—and cannot—intrude.  The state should be neutral and impartial when it comes to matters of deeply-held personal beliefs.

The freedom to believe and practice as we choose is closely related to core values of liberty and autonomy. Religious freedom in Canada means that there are no state-sponsored religions and that the government cannot prefer some religious beliefs or groups over others.  Similarly, religious belief cannot be preferred to non-belief.  We strives to ensure that any restrictions on freedom of religion are necessary and minimally intrusive and that our public institutions treat all individuals equally, regardless of religious affiliation. 

Click here to view our current case against the religious symbols ban in Quebec.

Hijab

Our recent work

2019 ONTArIO COURT OF APPEAL win

Vulnerable patients, such as folk looking to get an abortion or help with assisted dying kept facing the same problem in Ontario. A doctor who religiously or morally opposed the procedure would refuse to treat the patient or refuse to give them an effective referral. 

In May 2019, we went to Court to argue that physicians should be responsible for ensuring that patients receive effective referrals and the Court agreed. Failure to provide an effective referral would shame and stigmatize patients seeking a public service and would risk denying health care to vulnerable persons. “An effective referral is defined as a ‘referral made in good faith, to a non-objecting, available and accessible physician, other health-care professional, or agency,’” said the ruling.

While freedoms and rights often conflict, it is important to strike a balance.