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The Charter of the French language and its regulations govern the consultation of English-language content.
June 1, 2008

(French only) - La Charte et la prise en compte de la religion dans l'espace public. Document de réflexion


The Commission noted that, under the Charter, freedom of religion may be restricted if the protection of other rights or the collective interest require it. There is no legislative instrument or case law that automatically confers a lesser or higher legal status to freedom of religion in relation to other rights and freedoms. In both its public statements and in its investigations and legal representations, the Commission has always favoured this approach, according to which each right and category of rights guaranteed under the Charter are of equal importance.

The Commission pointed out that freedom of religion and conscience, as well as the right to equality without discrimination based on religion, imposes an obligation of religious neutrality on the State. The latter must remain neutral toward the various religions in order to give everyone a chance to freely express their beliefs and convictions without interference or constraints. Applying this principle to concrete cases, the Commission was of the opinion that saying a prayer at the opening of municipal council meetings is discriminatory, but that the presence of a religious symbol, such as a crucifix or a cross, in a public institution does not, generally, raise any particular problem under the Charter.

The duty to accommodate is a natural consequence of the right to equality guaranteed under both the Quebec and Canadian Charters. Under the Quebec Charter, every person has a right to full and equal recognition and exercise of his or her human rights and freedoms, without distinction, exclusion or preference based on one of the 13 grounds listed in section 10, including religion. The Commission argued that this obligation also contributes to the integration of minorities by facilitating their inclusion in society. It noted the guidelines established for accommodation requests and the conditions for undue hardship.