AuthorRichard Moon
ProfessionFaculty of Law, University of Windsor
When the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms1 was enacted in 1982,
the f‌irst of its fundamental freedoms seemed less signif‌icant and less in-
teresting than many of its other rights. Religion in Canada was generally
regarded as a private matter, with little visible presence in the country’s
political life. There were, of course, individuals and groups who were
motivated by a religious commitment to take political action, but their
objectives were almost always civic to eradicate poverty, or ban land-
mines, or prohibit abortion and not to advance the particular practi-
ces of their faith. Indeed, political actors seldom spoke publicly about
their faith and did not justify their public actions explicitly on religious
grounds. Some of the early support for a charter of rights in Canada had
been a reaction to acts of state suppression of religious and cultural prac-
tice, such as the “war without mercy” against the proselytizing activities
of the Jehovah’s Witness community in 1950s Quebec.2 But by 1982, the
state seemed to be no longer engaged in the direct suppression of reli-
gious practice.
Yet in 1982 there were also several reasons to think that issues of
religious freedom might again become signif‌icant. Those who had pre-
dicted the ineluctable decline of religious belief had begun to rethink
1 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part 1 of the Constitution Act, 1982, be-
ing Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11 [Charter].
2 Maurice Duplessis quoted in William Kaplan, State and Salvation: The Jehovah’s
Witnesses and Their Fight for Civil Rights (Toronto: University of Toronto Press,
1989) at 230.

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