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5 - The General Right to Conscientious Exemption in Canadian Law: Beyond Religious Privilege?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 July 2020

John Adenitire
Affiliation:
Queen Mary University of London
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Summary

The chapter argues that the general right to conscientious exemption in Canada should not be interpreted to be available only to religious people. This is for several reasons. First, the general right to conscientious exemption is available under the right to freedom of conscience under s 2(a) of the Canadian Charter and s 3 of the Quebec Charter. Albeit there are only a handful of cases on this right and even though the SCC has not unequivocally delivered a judgment on this, it is clear that the existing cases hold that freedom of conscience protects non-religious conscientious beliefs. Secondly, even though the general right to conscientious exemption arising under anti-discrimination statutes appears to be a privilege of only those with religious beliefs, it has been argued that this would violate the Canadian Charter guarantee of equality rights under s 15 and freedom of conscience under s 2(a). The appropriate remedy, for most of the anti-discrimination statutes, would be to read in conscience as a protected characteristic. This would entail that, in relation to all the rules of law which guarantee the general right to conscientious exemption, the right is not a privilege of those that object on the basis of a religious belief.

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A General Right to Conscientious Exemption
Beyond Religious Privilege
, pp. 129 - 175
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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