Canada, a country that loves religions

Due to its constitution, laws and tax system, Canada appears to favor systematic discrimination against non-believers.


Marie-Claude Girard
Retired from the Canadian Human Rights Commission

First, the Constitution Act, 1982 begins “As Canada was founded on principles recognizing the transcendence of God and the rule of law.” This basic premise ostracizes all who do not believe in “the transcendence of God”. However, according to the 2011 census, 23.9% of the Canadian population declared themselves to have no religious affiliation, a proportion that is constantly increasing (compared to 4.4% in the 1971 census and 13% in 1991). *. Can we, under these conditions, speak of a constitution which respects its diversity?

Canadian criminal law also grants preferential treatment to “believers”. Indeed, section 319 of the Criminal Code relating to hate propaganda prohibits incitement to hatred but provides a golden defense for believers in paragraph (3) (b). “No one may be convicted of an offense referred to in subsection (2) in the following cases: […] Has expressed his opinion in good faith on a religious subject or an opinion based on a religious text in which he believes, or has attempted to prove it by argument. “

A petition was tabled in the House of Commons in 2018 asking for this section to be repealed.

This petition argued, among other things, that the texts of many major religions contained defamatory and hateful expressions against non-believers, women, homosexuals or certain ethnic or racial groups.

Jodi Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, under the Trudeau government, replied that “the government does not support the proposal to repeal section 319 (3) (b) of the Criminal Code”. This religious exception to the hate propaganda law is therefore maintained.

tax collection

Canadian taxes also encourage debt. In fact, in Canada, organizations that “promote religion” can achieve registered charity (OBE) status. According to government standards, the promotion of religion means “the manifestation, advancement, preservation or strengthening of faith in three main characteristics of religion, namely the belief in a higher and invisible power, such as God or a higher being or entity; religious practice or deep respect; a special and comprehensive system of beliefs and practices.

Nothing for organizations that promote belief, state secularism, humanism, cosmopolitanism or another philosophy of life.

Remember that the OBE status allows you to be exempt from income tax, to take advantage of land holidays, municipal and school taxes, and to obtain a refund of part of the sales tax, as well as attract donations by allocating a donor tax credit. In other words, religious groups pay no taxes and fees, and financial benefits are denied to unbelieving groups.

Is it useful to remember that religious institutions are not democratic organizations? Moreover, religions do not belong to the taxpayers who finance these activities.

In a free and democratic state, all citizens should be treated equally; Believers and practitioners as well as non-believers and non-practitioners. The difference in the treatment of religions by the Canadian state has no reason to exist and creates systemic discrimination against non-believers. This preferential treatment goes against the supposed neutrality of the State.

We hope that this subject will be addressed in the next federal election.

* Read “Religions in Canada, a brief statistical portrait”.