Freedom means that … no one is to be forced to act in a way contrary to his beliefs or his conscience. (Chief Justice Dickson)
“A truly free society is one which can accommodate a wide variety of beliefs, diversity of tastes and pursuits, customs and codes of conduct. … Freedom must surely be founded in respect for the inherent dignity and the inviolable rights of the human person.”
~ Chief Justice Dickson of the Supreme Court of Canada
Canadian courts have long recognized that religious freedom has at least two dimensions:
• the freedom to believe
• the freedom to manifest those beliefs in action.
“Religion is an integral part of each person’s identity. When the state treats his or her religious practices or beliefs as less important or less true than the practices of others, or when it marginalizes her or his religious community in some way, it is not simply rejecting the individual’s views and values, it is denying her or his equal worth.”
~ Chief Justice Gascon of the Supreme Court of Canada; Professor R. Moon
“The State is in no position to be, nor should it become, the arbiter of religious dogma”
~ Supreme Court of Canada
In other words, it is not up to the government to decide what Canadians should believe, or to tell Canadians whether an act does or does not violate their religious principles. If religious adherents sincerely believe that signing a certain statement is contrary to their spiritual faith, then “twisting their arms” to “check the box” is, indeed, a violation of religious freedom – even if the government insists otherwise.
As well, the Supreme Court of Canada has noted THAT spiritual beliefs are subjective, explaining that:
“it is the spiritual essence of an action … that attracts protection. The State is in no position to be, nor should it become, the arbiter of religious dogma.”
“Freedom of religion is triggered when a claimant demonstrates that he or she sincerely believes in a practice or belief that has a nexus with religion.”
~ Supreme Court of Canada
Moreover, even if the government did not intend to infringe upon the rights of Canadians, the courts are concerned with the effect rather than the purpose or intention of government action (see R. v Keegstra,  3 SCR 697).
In this case, the effects have been egregious.
EXAMPLES FROM LITIGANTS:
TORONTO CITY MISSION
Toronto City Mission runs camp for 7 weeks in 4 communities. Many of the kids come from families on social assistance, and a number are from single-parent homes. All are impacted by poverty.
Approximately 135 kids per week experience a safe and loving environment where they enjoy sports activities, games, crafts, singing, and fields trips to destinations like the pool or the Science Centre.
Last year, TCM made the choice to offer the camps at no cost so access was available to all. We rely on donations, volunteers, and CSJ funding to make this possible.
Without the CSJ grant, 16 students will be denied a rich work experience this summer. More importantly, families and children impacted by poverty won’t have access to a free, safe, and loving camp for 7 weeks of the summer.
As Christians, we live out our faith by serving and loving the poor, the widow, the orphan, the refugee, and God’s children. We pray that the government will change this policy that punishes some of the most vulnerable children and families in the city.
Paradise Valley Church of God
The attestation violates our moral and religious beliefs and identity. Even though the job for our summer student has nothing to do with the issues surrounding abortion, we cannot sign an attestation that says we as an organization agree that it’s right. Our core mandate is to love as Jesus loves, sharing the love of Christ through serving others. God’s Word preaches purity of thought, speech and action and we cannot separate our beliefs from our core mandate.