Canadian Freedom of Religion Case

Document Type

Response or Comment

Publication Date



law, freedom of religion, Canada, S.L v. Commission scholaire des Chenes, Case Comment


On, February 17, 2012, in S.L v. Commission scholaire des Chenes (2012 SCC 7), the Supreme Court of Canada handed down a significant ruling on freedom of religion. At issue was whether a mandatory program for school children on Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) infringed the religious freedom of parents who objected to the program. The Court concluded that the school board had not violated the appellant parents’ rights by refusing to exempt their children from the program. While the parents’ arguments were rejected by the full Court, two of the nine justices held that with fuller information regarding what was actually taught in the ERC program, it might be possible for these or other parents to prove a violation in the future. The case is significant for the way in which it applies and, arguably, narrows the test for determining whether freedom of religion has been violated. The case is also noteworthy for the emphasis which the majority places on the multicultural nature of Canada, an emphasis which may restrict the scope of freedom of religion.