Fundamental Freedoms - The Charter of Rights and Freedoms
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Fundamental Freedoms
Freedom of religion, belief, and association

Case Law

Section 2(a)-- Freedom of conscience and religion

Regina v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd., [1985] 1 S.C.R. 295, (Supreme Court of Canada)
The Lord's Day Act required stores to close on Sundays for religious reasons.
The Court decided that this law violated the right to freedom of religion. The law undermined respect for and freedom of religious groups by giving preferential treatment to one religion. It protected individuals in Christian groups who had their holy day on Sunday but did not protect religions with other holy days (for example, Muslims, Jews or Seventh Day Adventists).

Edwards Books and Art Limited et al. v. Regina, [1986] 2 S.C.R. 713, (Supreme Court of Canada)
The Retail Business Holidays Act required businesses to close on Sunday, but not for religious reasons.
The Court decided that this law limited freedom of religion under section 2 of the Charter. Retailers who had a religious holy day other than Sunday had to choose between lost sales or having their stores open on their religious holy day. This put the retailers at a disadvantage for religious reasons.

The Court then applied section 1 of the Charter and decided that the limit to religious freedom was justified because the law had the important purpose of giving retail workers a weekly day off work

B.(R.) v. Children's Aid Society, [1995] 1 S.C.R. 315, (Supreme Court of Canada)
Parents refused to let their child have blood transfusions because it went against their religious beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses. The state took the child away so that the child could have life-saving medical help.

The Court decided that the law which let the state take the child for medical help limited the parents' freedom of religion under section 2 of the Charter.

The Court then applied section 1 of the Charter and decided that the state's decision to require the blood transfusion was justified to protect the child's life.

Reference re Same-Sex Marriage, [2004] 3 S.C.R. 698, (Supreme Court of Canada)
The Court decided that freedom of religion under s.2 of the Charter would protect religious officials from having to act against their religious beliefs to perform same-sex marriages.

Grant v. Canada, [1995] 1 F.C. 158 Federal Court of Canada
The Court decided that the public's freedom of religion is not violated if police officers are allowed to wear a religious symbol as part of their uniform. The fact that a police officer wears a religious symbol (in this case a Sikh turban) does not require the public to participate in the officer's religious practice.

There are many cases under provincial human rights legislation about rights to wear religious clothing. See for example Bhinder v. Canadian National Railway Co., [1985] 2 S.C.R. 561, (Supreme Court of Canada).

Section 2(b)- Freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication

Irwin Toy Ltd. v. Quebec, [1989] 1 S.C.R. 927, (Supreme Court of Canada)
Is advertising to children a right protected by freedom of expression?
The Court decided that any activity trying to convey meaning, including advertising, is expression for the purposes of section 2 of the Charter. Advertising is therefore protected by freedom of expression.

The Court then applied section 1 of the Charter. It decided that limiting the right to advertise was justified because it was reasonable for the government to protect children from dangers of advertising.

Rocket v. Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario, [1990] 2 S.C.R. 232 (Supreme Court of Canada)
The Court said that the right to freedom of expression under section 2 of the Charter protects a person's right to hear the ideas of others and receive information.

Committee for the Commonwealth of Canada v. Canada, [1991] 1 S.C.R. 139 (Supreme Court of Canada)
The right to freedom of expression includes the right to use parks and streets that are dedicated to public use. It can also include the use of public airports. The right can be limited by s. 1 of the Charter to make sure these places can still be used for their main purpose.

Regina v. Keegstra, [1990] 3 S.C.R. 697 (Supreme Court of Canada)
The Court decided that hate speech is included in freedom of expression under section 2 of the Charter. Hate speech conveys meaning, even though the meaning is offensive to many people.

The Court then applied section 1 of the Charter and decided that limiting hate speech was justified. The goals of protecting people from harm and encouraging tolerance were important, even though this limited freedom of expression.

Regina v. Butler, [1992] 1 S.C.R. 452 (Supreme Court of Canada)
The Court decided that pornography is a form of expression under section 2 of the Charter.

The Court then applied section 1 of the Charter and decided that limits may be placed on pornography in order to avoid harm to society. Limiting freedom of expression was justified to protect against sexual violence and to respect the equality of women

Dagenais v. Canadian Broadcasting Corp, [1994] 3 S.C.R. 835 (Supreme Court of Canada)
This case is about limiting freedom of the press under section 2 of the Charter.
To decide whether to order a publication ban in a criminal case, a Court must balance freedom of the free press under section 2 of the Charter, and an accused person's right to a fair trial, under section 11 of the Charter.

Section 2(d)-Freedom of Association

Suresh v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2002 SCC 1 (Canlii)[2002] 1 S.C.R. 3 (Supreme Court of Canada)
Violence is not protected by either the right to freedom of expression or freedom of association.

Dunmore v. Ontario (Attorney General), 2001 SCC 94, (Supreme Court of Canada)
Agricultural workers challenged a law that took away their trade union and bargaining rights. Freedom of association means that labour unions can be formed. Does it also mean that unions have a right to collective bargaining?

The Court said that the purpose of freedom of association under section 2 of the Charter was to "allow the achievement of individual potential through interpersonal relationships and collective action." The freedom to associate can sometimes mean that the activity of the association is protected by the Charter.

Canada Committe on Broadcasting, 1965. One of the essential tasks of a broadcasting system is to stir up in the minds and emotions of the people, and occasionally to make large numbes of them acutely uncomfortable.
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