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Diplomacy in Action

Canada


International Religious Freedom Report
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
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The Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report, and government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion.

The generally amicable relationship among the religions in society contributed to religious freedom.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has a total area of approximately 3,850,000 square miles, and its population is approximately 30.7 million.

There is no state or dominant religion; however, an estimated 82.1 percent of the population belong to Christian denominations, with Roman Catholics (45.2 percent) forming the largest single group. Other Catholic groups include Eastern Orthodox (1.4 percent) and Ukrainian Catholics (0.5 percent). Protestants constitute an estimated 36.4 percent of the population, consisting of the United Church (11.5 percent), Anglicans (8.1 percent), Presbyterians (2.4 percent), Lutherans (2.4 percent), Baptists (2.5 percent), Pentecostals (1.6 percent), and other Protestant denominations (7.9 percent). Members of other religions include Jews (1.2 percent), Muslims (0.9 percent), Buddhists (0.6 percent), Hindus (0.6 percent), Sikhs (0.5 percent), groups such as Scientology, Kabalarianism, and Rastafarianism (0.1 percent), and other religions (0.1 percent). Those professing no religion constitute an estimated 12.5 percent of the population.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The Government at all levels generally protects this right in full and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

Religious groups do not have to register with the Government.

The Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protect the rights or privileges possessed by denominational schools at the time of national union in 1867. In practice this protection has meant that some provinces have funded and continue to fund Catholic school education, and some provinces (such as Quebec) have funded some Protestant education. In March 1999, the government-mandated Proulx task force submitted its report to Quebec's National Assembly. Its 14 recommendations include abolishing Catholic and Protestant status for public schools and creating secular public schools instead, with religions studied from a cultural perspective. School boards are scheduled to respond to the Quebec government by July 1, 2001. In May 2001, the Ontario provincial government announced a new policy providing tax credits for private school tuition, including for all private religious schools. Previously, the province provided tax credits only for private Roman Catholic schools.

In the 2000-2001 academic year, the Saskatoon school board implemented a new policy that replaced its prior policy requiring children to recite (or remain silent during the recital of) the Lord's Prayer. Under the new policy, daily school opening exercises are limited to: instruction on the values education units developed by the Saskatoon Public Schools Division; opportunities for personal reflection through a moment of silence; writing in a personal journal; or sharing a thought for the day; or singing the national anthem.

There is no official government council for interfaith dialog, but the Government provides funding for individual ecumenical projects on a case-by-case basis.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally unrestricted practice of religion. However, in May 2001 a Muslim chaplain filed suit in federal court against an Ontario provincial judge who had ejected him from the courtroom in 1993 for wearing a Muslim cap. The chaplain's initial complaints filed with the provincial and federal human rights commissions were dismissed because the law provides for immunity from human rights laws for judges.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the Government's refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section III. Societal Attitudes

The generally amicable relationship among the religions in society contributed to religious freedom.

The B'nai Brith Canada League for Human Rights received 280 reports of anti-Semitic incidents in 2000. This represented an increase of 5 percent from the 267 incidents reported in 1999. In February 2001, the Human Rights Tribunal (a government entity) completed hearings on the Zundel case examining whether a specific web site exposed Jews to hatred or contempt on the basis of their race, religion, or ethnic origin. The Tribunal is expected to issue a decision by the fall of 2001.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights. 



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