A Friend of the Court

CLF is dedicated to advancing the public good by articulating legal and moral principles that are consistent with, and illuminated by, our Christian faith through court interventions. Over nearly two decades, CLF has been granted intervener standing in almost 40 cases involving Charter issues—including 12 at the Supreme Court of Canada—seeking to advance justice, protect the vulnerable, promote equality, and advocate for freedom of religion, conscience, and expression.

CLF has: 

  • a well-established history of active involvement in matters of public policy and law, especially matters involving issues surrounding the Charter.

  • appeared before Parliamentary committees and made representations to provincial governments on issues of conscience, religious freedom, inviolability of life, human rights and issues generally affecting the family.

  • Special Consultative Status as an NGO with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, and has been involved in numerous international matters and court submissions.

  • also been an intervener before the courts in matters involving freedom of religion and conscience, including the interface of s. 2(a)-(b) of the Charter and s. 15 of the Charter, and related provisions in Human Rights Codes, as well as issues affecting the inviolability of life and the family.

The Supreme Court of Canada and other courts have granted the CLF intervener status, either individually or with others, in the following cases among others (listed chronologically from the most recent.)


2018

Wall

Case: Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Judicial Committee) v. Wall, 2018 SCC 2

Summary: CLF was granted leave to intervene before the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) in this appeal, which concerned whether internal decisions of private religious bodies are justiciable. A former member of the Jehovah's Witnesses was "disfellowshipped" due to various allegations of "wrongdoings" and sought judicial review of this expulsion, arguing the expulsion caused financial hardship. A bifurcated proceeding was ordered to first determine whether the court had jurisdiction to hear the appeal. The chambers judge found that the court had jurisdiction to hear the matter to the extent that the "disfellowship" had an economic impact on Mr. Wall. The Court of Appeal concluded in a 2-1 decision that the Court of Queen's Bench had jurisdiction to hear the appeal and returned the matter to the lower court to be heard by another judge. CLF's intervention before the SCC focused on how Canada's international obligations ought to inform the scope and nature of freedom of religion, freedom of association, and church autonomy. Drawing from international jurisprudence, CLF also spoke to the implications for all religious communities if courts are entitled to intervene with the internal functions of private, autonomous, voluntary associations. The Supreme Court of Canada in a unanimous decision affirmed that church membership decisions cannot be judicially reviewed by civil courts except in very narrow circumstances.  

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Truchon

Should euthanasia be performed on patients who are not dying or near death?

Summary: Jean Truchon (49) and Nicol Gladu (72) have launched a challenge in the Quebec Superior Court to provisions in both Quebec (Bill 52) and federal legislation (Bill C-14) requiring that death be reasonably foreseeable for a patient to receive assisted death. The plaintiffs both seek euthanasia, but their doctors ruled them ineligible because they are not facing imminent death. The plaintiffs argue that while their medical conditions are not sufficient to meet the legal requirements, they are suffuicent to meet the conditions set out by the Supreme Court in Carter v. Canada (2015).

Christian Legal Fellowship has been granted leave to intervene in the case. Watch for more updates on this case.

 

CPSO

Case: The Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada v. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, 2018 ONSC 57

Summary: Christian Legal Fellowship was granted leave to intervene jointly in this case with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario. This coalition of interveners advocated for freedom of religion, religious equality, and conscience rights for health care professionals. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario adopted (1) a Human Rights policy mandating effective referrals and obligatory emergency care even if it conflicts with conscience or religious beliefs; and (2) a Medical Assistance in Dying policy that specifically requires effective referrals for assisted suicide. CLF supported CMDS in its position that, among other things, these policies violate religious freedom and equality, are not in the public interest, limit patient choice and undermine the principle of state neutrality. The Court acknowledged that the CPSO policy infringes physicians’ freedom of religion by requiring them to take “positive action” to facilitate procedures such as euthanasia contrary to their beliefs. However, the three-judge panel concluded that such an infringement is justifiable to the extent that it advances the CPSO’s goal of “ensuring access to health care services in Ontario, and, in particular, to the goal of ensuring equitable access to such medical services” (para. 162). The Ontario Court of Appeal has granted leave to appeal the decision.

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2017

Trinity Western University

Case: Trinity Western University v. The Law Society of Upper Canada; Trinity Western University v. The Law Society of British Columbia (heard by the Supreme Court of Canada, Nov 30-Dec 1, 2017; decision expected June 15, 2018)

Can law students be excluded from the practice of law based on their decision to associate under a religious code of conduct at an academically accredited religious law school? 

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Case: Trinity Western University v. The Law Society of Upper Canada, 2016 ONCA 518

Summary: Judicial review of the Law Society of Upper Canada's (LSUC) denial of accreditation of TWU's proposed law school. The Ontario Divisional Court dismissed Trinity Western University’s (TWU) application for judicial review, deciding that the Law Society of Upper Canada’s (LSUC) decision to not accredit TWU’s proposed law school was reasonable. The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the decision. TWU has appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

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Case: Trinity Western University v. The Law Society of British Columbia, 2015 BCSC 2326

Summary:  Judicial review of the Law Society of British Columbia's (LSBC) decision to reject TWU's proposed law school. The BC Supreme Court and the BC Court of Appeal both decided in TWU's favour. The LSBC has appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

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Case: Trinity Western University v. Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, 2015 NSSC 25

Summary: The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia held in 2015 that Christian law students have a right to attend a private religious law school with others who share their faith, and to practice law in Nova Scotia without facing additional barriers based on their beliefs. CLF promoted the recognition of freedom of religion and equality rights of law students and lawyers in Canada. The Nova Scotia Barristers' Society's appeal was dismissed by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal. 

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E.T.

Case: E.T. v Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, 2017 ONCA 893

Summary: CLF was been granted leave to intervene as a friend of the court in this appeal, which concerned a father, E.T., who requested that the respondent school board inform him when certain subjects (such as sexuality, gender and marriage) are scheduled to be taught in his children’s classes. The school board refused to grant E.T. his request for religious accommodation, stating that the effect of doing so would heighten the risk of discrimination for other students by sending a message that there is something wrong with what is being taught. The lower court agreed, finding that the Board’s decision struck a reasonable balance between E.T.’s rights and the Board’s “competing legislative mandate" as well as "Charter values favouring inclusivity, equality and multiculturalism.” Christian Legal Fellowship (CLF) intervened in the case and made both written and oral submissions to the Court of Appeal. CLF urge the court to carefully circumscribe the role of Charter values in its decisions, particularly when other Charter rights are engaged. In particular, CLF explained that a “values analysis” inappropriately requires courts to engage in moral prioritizing rather than rights adjudication and undermines a robust legal analysis that rests on evidentiary requirements. The appeal was dismissed for evidentiary reasons, but a majority of the Court left open the possibility for a future legal challenge and emphasized the importance of parental rights in education.

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Ktunaxa

Case: Ktunaxa Nation v. British Columbia (heard by the Supreme Court of Canada, judgment pending) 

Summary: CLF was granted leave to intervene, jointly with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, in Ktunaxa Nation v. British Columbia. The litigation arose from a proposed ski resort on land that is sacred to the Ktunaxa people. The Ktunaxa Nation opposed the development on the basis that it would desecrate the sacred site and would interfere with a variety of their spiritual practices. The British Columbia Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources approved the development but did not specifically address how the decision would impact the Ktunaxa Nation's section 2(a) Charter right to freedom of religion. Ktunaxa Nation's claim failed at the courts below as it was found to fall outside of the scope of the protection of religious freedom. The BC Court of Appeal suggested that the Charter does not protect religious exercise to the extent that it requires others to “act or refrain from acting and behave in a manner consistent with a belief that they do not share.” The Supreme Court upheld the Minister’s ultimate decision; however, the Court was divided 7-2 on some of their underlying reasons. The Supreme Court of Canada reaffirmed in its decision that government actors have a duty to specifically consider religious freedom concerns when raised by claimants.

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2016

Carter

Case: Carter v. Canada (AG), 2016 SCC 4

Topic: Physician-Assisted Suicide (Request for extension of suspension of invalidation issued in Carter 2015

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2015

Case: D'Amico et Saba c Procureure général du Québec

Topic: Physician-Assisted Suicide (Whether paramountcy renders Quebec's An Act respecting end-of-life care (Bill 52) inoperative)

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Case: Loyola High School and John Zucchi v. Attorney General of Québec, 2015 SCC 12

Topic: Freedom of Religion and Association (Whether the state can secuarlize the teaching of religion and morality within the very walls of a private Catholic school)

Summary: Such was the central question framed by the Superior Court in this case after Loyola, a private Catholic school, was denied permission by the Quebec government to teach a mandatory Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) course from a Catholic perspective. The provincial curriculum required Loyola, in the words of the Superior Court, to teach “a pedagogy contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church” but the Québec Court of Appeal ruled in the government’s favour. CLF intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada and highlighted how the purpose of the ERC program was to shape children’s thinking and character. CLF argued that a religious school must be given the freedom to teach such a curriculum from its own faith perspective, and that any interference with that right contravenes the Canadian Charter, the Quebec Charter and international law. 

While the SCC was divided (4-3) on some issues, it was unanimous in its affirmation that the state cannot oblige a private religious school to teach morals and religion from a perspective that contradicts its own doctrine. The court’s decision incorporated CLF’s submissions on the Quebec Charter and international covenants (paras. 64-65, 96-97), affirming parents have a legally protected right to pass on their beliefs to their children. The court also affirmed that an “essential ingredient of the vitality of a religious community is the ability of its members to pass on their beliefs to their children”, and measures which disrupt that vitality “represent a profound interference with religious freedom” (paras. 64, 67).

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Case: Carter v. Canada (AG), 2015 SCC 5

Topic: Physician Assisted Suicide (The constitutionality of section 241(b) of the Criminal Code of Canada, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, the criminal prohibition against physician-assisted dying)

Summary: On February 6, 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously struck down as unconstitutional Canada’s Criminal Code provisions banning physician-assisted suicide, but has given Parliament one year to create a new regime with a stringently limited, carefully monitored system of exceptions to the ban. Christian Legal Fellowship was an intervenor in the case. 

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2013

Case: Canada (Attorney General) v Bedford, 2012 SCC 72, [2013] SCR 1101

Topic: Prostitution (The constitutionality of portions of the Criminal Code designed to protect victims of prostitution)

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Case: Saskatchewan (Human Rights Commission) v Whatcott, 2013 SCC 11

Topic: Hate Speech (Freedom of expression and the constitutionality of the enforcement of statutory hate-speech prohibitions against religious speech) 

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2012

Case: Ginette Leblanc v Le Procureur Général du Canada et al, no. 400-17-002642-110

Topic: Physician Assisted Suicide (The constitutionality of section 241(b) of the Criminal Code of Canada, RSC 1985, c C-46, the criminal prohibition against physician-assisted dying)

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Case: S.L., et al v Commission Scolaire Des Chenes, et al, [2012] 1 SCR 235

Topic: Freedom of Religion (Whether the right to freedom of religion and conscience includes the freedom of parents to bring up their children in the religion of their choice without interference of the State)

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2011

Case: A Reference by the Lieutenant Governor in Council to the Supreme Court of British Columbia under The Constitutional Questions Act, RSBC 1986

Topic: Polygamy (C 68 relating to the criminal prohibition against polygamy under The Criminal Code of Canada, RSC 1985, c C-46)

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Case: A Reference by the Lieutenant Governor in Council to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal under The Constitutional Questions Act, RSS 1978

Topic: The Marriage Act (Concerning Marriage Commissioners Appointed Under The Marriage Act, 1995, S 1995, c M-4.1) (commonly referred to as The Marriage Commissioners’ Reference))

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2009

Case: Alberta v Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony, [2009] 2 SCR 567

Topic: Freedom of Religion (The inviolability of freedom of religion and freedom of association to individuals and religious communities) 

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2007

Case: Alliance for Marriage and Family v. A.A., [2007] 3 S.C.R. 124, 2007 SCC 40

Topic: Parentage and the Traditional Family (The redefinition of parentage and the traditional family)

Notes: Christian Legal Fellowship intervened in the case as a member of the Alliance for Marriage and Family. 

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2006

Case: Owens v Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, 2006 SKCA 41

Topic: Freedom of Religion (The use of sacred texts)

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2005

Case: Kempling v British Columbia College of Teachers, 2005 BCCA 327

Topic: Freedom of Religion and Expression (The extent to which a teacher's professional association can discipline a teacher for out-of-classroom expression and whether the fundamental freedoms guaranteed in the Charter extend to teachers in this context)

Notes: Christian Legal Fellowship intervened in this case as a member of the Canadian Religious Freedom Alliance. 

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2002

Case: Ontario (Human Rights Commission) v Scott Brockie, [2002] OJ No 2375

Topic: Freedom of Conscience (Whether business owners have a right of conscientious objection under the Ontario Human Rights Code)

Notes: Christian Legal Fellowship intervened in this case as a member of the Canadian Religious Freedom Alliance. 

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2001

Case: Trinity Western University v British Columbia College of Teachers, [2001] 1 SCR 772

Topic: Limitations of Jurisdiction (Whether it is within the jurisdiction of a teacher's regulatory body to determine if a private university's community standards promote discrimination against homosexuals)

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1998

Case: Vriend v Alberta, [1998] 1 SC 493

Topic: Grounds for Discrimination (Whether sexual orientation should be a prohibited ground of discrimination in the Individual Rights Protection Act of Alberta)

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