CLF’s special consultative status with the United Nations

CLF’s special consultative status with the United Nations: 

A Quadrennial Report (2015-2018)

Christian Legal Fellowship is one of 4,053 NGOs worldwide who have been granted special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations. The purpose of this consultative relationship is two-fold. First, it allows the ECOSOC (and its bodies) “to secure expert information or advice from organizations have special competence in the subjects for which consultative arrangements are made.” Second, it enables NGOs like CLF that “represent important elements of public opinion to express their views.”[1] CLF’s special consultative status also provides “access to not only ECOSOC, but also to its many subsidiary bodies, to the various human rights mechanisms of the United Nations, ad-hoc processes on small arms, as well as special events organized by the President of the General Assembly.”[2] 

CLF has a unique expertise in international law; in addition to CLF’s Special Consultative Status with the ECOSOC of the United Nations, CLF has participated in proceedings before international courts such as the Supreme Court of Sweden and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. CLF also has a considerable history of intervening to speak to the importance of international human rights obligations in interpreting fundamental rights and freedoms in Canada, including at the Supreme Court of Canada.

As part of its special consultative status obligations, CLF is required to submit a “Quadrennial Report” to the United Nations every four years. CLF’s 2019 Report was filed May 30 and is reproduced below.  It provides an overview of CLF’s work during the 2015-2018 period to promote and safeguard the fundamental rights and freedoms of Canadians in accordance with the United Nations’ international instruments and recommendations (hyperlinks have been added for further reading).


In 2007, CLF was granted special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

The United Nations’ Headquarters (pictured left) are located in New York City.

Introduction to Christian Legal Fellowship

Christian Legal Fellowship (CLF) is a national charitable association representing over 700 Christian lawyers, professors, law students, and retired judges.

Aims and Purposes of Christian Legal Fellowship

As Canada’s national association of Christian legal professionals, CLF works to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms. CLF seeks to advance the public good by articulating legal and moral principles that are consistent with, and illuminated by, the Christian faith.

Contribution of Christian Legal Fellowship to the work of the United Nations

CLF has participated in numerous Canadian court cases and policy consultations pertaining to human rights and fundamental freedoms as follows:

  1. Human trafficking: Submitted a brief (EnglishFrench) to Parliament highlighting Canada’s international obligations under the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children (art. 9.5), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (art. 6), and supplementary materials. Several instruments were cited in the Parliamentary Committee’s report, which recognized the need to strengthen efforts to combat human trafficking and called for assistance for victims. 

  2. Religious association: Urged the Standing Committee of Justice and Human Rights to retain Criminal Code protections (s. 176) for religious assembly and association, invoking the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). CLF’s brief highlighted the Special Rapporteur’s work on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association(UN Doc A/HRC/20/27). The Committee retained the provisions that CLF advocated for. 

  3. Parental and religious rights: 

    1. Advocated for parental and religious rights in E.T. v. Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, 2017 ONCA 893. CLF urged the Ontario Court of Appeal to consider the ICCPR, which recognizes parents’ rights to pass on their beliefs to their children. This was reflected in the court’s decision at paragraphs 65 and 72. 

    2. Urged Ontario’s government to affirm in its proposed Parents’ Bill of Rights that parents have the primary right to care for their children, and are best positioned to make decisions for their education and well-being. CLF’s submissions highlighted the UDHR (arts. 16, 26(3)), ICCPR (art. 18(4)), Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (art. 5(1), 5(2)), and Declaration of the Rights of the Child (Principle 7, at para 2). 

  4. Church autonomy: Intervened at the Supreme Court of Canada for the protection of church autonomy in Judicial Committee of the Highwood Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses et al v Randy Wall, emphasizing Canada’s international obligations, including the ICCPR (arts. 18, 22) and UDHR (art. 18), and the Special Rapporteur’s Report on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association (UN Doc A/HRC/20/27). The Supreme Court unanimously affirmed that church membership decisions cannot be judicially reviewed by civil courts except in very narrow circumstances. 

  5. Protecting the vulnerable: Advocated for protection of the dignity and life of all persons in a brief to the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA), which was tasked with undertaking an independent review on whether euthanasia should be expanded in Canada. CLF highlighted the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the United Nations’ Human Right Committee’s (UNHRC) interpretation of Article 6 of the ICCPR, recognizing that “the expression ‘inherent right to life’ cannot properly be understood in a restrictive manner”. CLF also highlighted the UNHRC’s draft General Comment on Article 6. 

Initiatives taken by Christian Legal Fellowship in support of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

CLF’s work has been complementary to the progress of the MDGs and SDGs. For example, CLF has:

  • Advocated for more inclusive and equitable education by urging decisionmakers to (i) accommodate religious minorities in educational institutions and (ii) respect the rights of families to educate in accordance with their own convictions (MDG 2/SDG 4);

  • Supported initiatives to promote the full and healthy well-being of all, regardless of age, disability, or health conditions, by advocating for important safeguards against potential abuse and harm related to euthanasia, and for conscience protections for health care professionals (SDG 3); and

  • Worked to end human trafficking to achieve gender equality and support for all women and girls (MDG 3/SDG 5).

Further reading: 

  • 2019: CLF urges the National Assembly of Quebec to uphold freedom of religion re: Bill 21, citing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

  • 2019: CLF advocates for the rights of homeschooling families in Quebec, citing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rightsand the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

  • May 28, 2019: The United Nations General Assembly proclaims August 22 as the “International Day for Victims of Violence Based on Religion, Other Beliefs”


[1] ECOSOC resolution 1996/31, part II, paragraph 20, cited in “Working with ECOSOC: A NGOs Guide to Consultative Status”, online: <>.

[2] See “How to apply for consultative status with ECOSOC?”, online: <>.