| Religious Freedom Ranking:
4 out of 5 stars: Good
The Constitution’s section on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) specifically provides for religious freedom, and the government has generally respected this right in practice. Citizens have the right to sue the government for violations of religious freedom.
The country has a population of 33.9 million. According to the most recent census (2001), approximately 77.1 percent of the population is Christian. Roman Catholics constitute 44 percent and Protestant denominations constitute 29 percent. The United Church, Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptists and Pentecostal churches are the largest Protestant denominations. The Muslim population counts as two percent. The Jewish population is approximately 1.1 percent. Other religious groups include Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs, each estimated at one percent. Scientology, the Baha’i Faith, Unificationism, Shintoism and Taoism account for less than one percent. Followers of “aboriginal spirituality” make up 0.1 percent of the population. Approximately 16 percent of the population is nonbelievers.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Good Friday, Easter Monday and Christmas Day.
Members of parliament, civil liberties organizations and the media have claimed that the federal and provincial human rights commissions and tribunals occasionally limited free speech, free expression and religious rights in federal and provincial human rights acts. These complaints often stemmed from hate speech legislation aimed against Bible-based criticism of homosexual lifestyles. The national statistical agency reported 1,036 hate crimes in 2008. These were mostly motivated by religion. Jews, Catholics and Muslims were the most targeted groups.
There have also been a number of complaints by Muslim women who were denied various services because they refused to remove their face-coverings. In 2010 the Quebec Human Rights Commission decided that the principle of gender equality trumps the principle of religious sensitivity, with the result that Muslim women who wear face coverings may no longer insist on female clerks when being photographed for public health cards. On the other hand, In March 2010 the Commission upheld the right of a health insurance board government employee to wear the hijab (woman's headscarf) while working. As of this writing, the Commission had not yet ruled on the cases of several women who were expelled from language instruction courses after they refused to remove their face-coverings.
British Columbia’s provincial Supreme Court has been considering whether section 293 of the federal criminal code forbidding polygamy violates the nation’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. British Columbia is home to a colony of the Utah-based Mormon fundamentalists who practice polygamy.
The government does not require religious groups to register. Religious institutions were granted tax-exemption through the Charities Directorate of the tax authority, the Canada Revenue Agency. This provides religious institutions with federal and provincial benefits.
The law allows parents to home school their children and to send them to religious private schools. Denominational schools are sometimes treated as public schools in terms of state support. However, Ontario is the only province that financed Catholic religious education but did not finance other denominational schools.
There is no authorized government council for interfaith dialogue. The government has provided funding for individual projects. In March 2009, quoting a “zero tolerance approach toward anti-Semitism,” the government opened a review of its civic service grants to eradicate government support for organizations that promoted hatred or expressed support for terrorism.
There have been no reports of religious prisoners or forced religious conversions.
2010 U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom on Canada