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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Let Us Consult the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Today, I was struggling with this whole Christmas thing. While I was wrestling with the whole basic materialism, way too much consumerism type of argument, I felt unable to come to any conclusion about limiting the Christian expression of this holiday. Perhaps, we are too hard on them. Maybe we are actively discriminating against their symbols of religious freedom. So, I thought that the best approach would be too consult our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to settle this conflict. Here is what I found, interesting stuff. First;

Sections 2(a) and 15 of the Charter lay out the right to freedom of religion and equal treatment in Canada. 2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: a) freedom of conscience and religion; … 15(1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

Basic stuff. But here is where it got interesting.

Freedom of religion in Canada has also been interpreted as necessitating the reasonable accommodation of minorities. This means that laws must be adjusted if they have even an indirect discriminatory effect on a person or group based on their particular characteristics. In this sense, Canada’s form of religious neutrality is quite different from the stricter version of laïcité adopted in countries such as France. The Canadian approach attempts to make laws receptive to the particular needs of minorities, rather than espousing a more uniform conception of equality. The policy of reasonable accommodation attempts to break from the trend promulgating the norms of the majority as the dominating values in Canadian society.(18 ) However, unlike the interpretation of freedom of religion under the United States Constitution, freedom of religion under the Charter’s section 2(a) is not absolute. Rather, it is a relative concept, with which courts have the power to balance certain countervailing claims. Clearly offensive conduct or symbols that harm or constrain the freedoms or human dignity of others are not tolerated. These limitations are emphasized within the Charter itself. Section 15 highlights the fact that each religion is one of many vying for equality. Section 27 suggests that religion falls under the rubric of culture, and that the Charter seeks to preserve and protect all cultures. Finally, section 1 gives courts the discretion to qualify the fundamental freedom of religion by such reasonable limits as are prescribed by law and can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.(19)

Interesting... So, the next time they cry about taking away Christmas, remind them that it is part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that others have the right to not be exposed to Christmas. It is legal now. I love it.

Here is the link if you are up for the read

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