Freedom of Conscience and Religion in Canada

16 Pages Posted: 8 Jul 2008

See all articles by Patrick Macklem

Patrick Macklem

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Date Written: 1984


The protection accorded to religious and conscientious freedom by the newly proclaimed Charter of Rights and Freedoms elevates this issue into the spheres of constitutional law and fundamental rights. As such, legal resolution of the tension between state power and religious or conscientious duty takes a form novel to Canadian jurisprudence. At the same time, however, that tension is not unfamiliar to the Canadian judiciary; it has surfaced in other forms at various stages of Canadian legal history. The purpose of this article is thus twofold. The first is to canvass Canadian jurisprudence in order to determine the level of protection that has been and is accorded to religious freedom. Four areas of the law are focussed on: The British North America Act, the Canadian Bill of Rights, Canadian human rights legislation, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. With respect to the Charter, it is submitted that the first three sources of law are of assistance in determining the scope of its provisions and offer legal techniques useful to its application. Following a discussion of these four areas of law, the author addresses more theoretical problems that flow from the concept of fundamental rights or freedoms within a constitutional democracy and advances a theoretical framework to this end.

Suggested Citation

Macklem, Patrick, Freedom of Conscience and Religion in Canada (1984). University of Toronto Faculty of Law Review, Vol. 42, 1984, Available at SSRN:

Patrick Macklem (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
416-978-3873 (Phone)
416-978-7899 (Fax)

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