Syndicat Northcrest v. Amselem et al., (2004) 323 N.R. 59 (SCC)

JudgeMcLachlin, C.J.C., Iacobucci, Major, Bastarache, Binnie, Arbour, LeBel, Deschamps and Fish, JJ.
CourtSupreme Court (Canada)
Case DateJune 30, 2004
JurisdictionCanada (Federal)
Citations(2004), 323 N.R. 59 (SCC);2004 SCC 47;[2004] ACS no 46;[2004] SCJ No 46 (QL);28 RPR (4th) 1;132 ACWS (3d) 170;[2004] 2 SCR 551;JE 2004-1354;121 CRR (2d) 189;323 NR 59;241 DLR (4th) 1;[2004] CarswellQue 1543;AZ-50260091

Syndicat Northcrest v. Amselem (2004), 323 N.R. 59 (SCC)

MLB headnote and full text

[French language version follows English language version]

[La version française vient à la suite de la version anglaise]

....................

Temp. Cite: [2004] N.R. TBEd. JN.035

Moïse Amselem, Gladys Bouhadana, Antal Klein and Gabriel Fonfeder (appellants) v. Syndicat Northcrest (respondent) and Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Canada, World Sikh Organization of Canada and Ontario Human Rights Commission (interveners) and Miguel Bernfield and Edith Jaul (mis en cause)

League for Human Rights of B'Nai Brith Canada (appellant) v. Syndicat Northcrest (respondent) and Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Canada, World Sikh Organization of Canada and Ontario Human Rights Commission (interveners) and Miguel Bernfield and Edith Jaul (mis en cause)

(29253, 29252; 2004 SCC 47; 2004 CSC 47)

Indexed As: Syndicat Northcrest v. Amselem et al.

Supreme Court of Canada

McLachlin, C.J.C., Iacobucci, Major, Bastarache, Binnie, Arbour, LeBel, Deschamps and Fish, JJ.

June 30, 2004.

Summary:

The defendants were Orthodox Jews who lived in a luxury condominium building in Montreal. They sought permission from the condominium syndicate (the plaintiff) to set up on the balconies of their respective indi­vidual units a temporary hut or booth called a "succah" for the purpose of celebrating the nine-day Succoth festival. The plaintiff re­fused. The defendants went ahead anyway. The plaintiff applied for a permanent injunc­tion prohibiting the defendants from setting up succahs and, if necessary, permitting their demolition.

The Quebec Superior Court, in a decision reported [1998] R.J.Q. 1892, allowed the application. The defendants appealed.

The Quebec Court of Appeal, in a decision reported [2002] R.J.Q. 906, dismissed the appeal. The defendants appealed.

The Supreme Court of Canada, Bastarache, LeBel, Deschamps and Binnie, JJ., dissent­ing, allowed the appeal. The court ordered that the defendants were to be permitted to set up succahs on their balconies, provided that the succahs remained only for the limited time necessary, here nine days, al­lowed for an emergency access route and conformed, as much as possible, with the general aesthetics of the property.

Civil Rights - Topic 341

Freedom of conscience and religion - Exer­cise of - General - The Supreme Court of Canada stated: "... regar­dless of the posi­tion taken by religious officials and in religious texts, provided that an individual demonstrates that he or she sincerely be­lieves that a certain prac­tice or belief is experientially religious in nature in that it is either objectively required by the relig­ion, or that he or she subjectively believes that it is required by the religion, or that he or she sincerely believes that the prac­tice engenders a personal, subjective con­nection to the divine or to the subject or object of his or her spiritual faith, and as long as that practice has a nexus with religion, it should trigger the protection of s. 3 of the Quebec Charter [of Human Rights and Freedoms] or that of s. 2(a) of the Cana­dian Charter [of Rights and Free­doms], or both, depending on the context" - The court also stated: "A claimant may choose to adduce expert evidence to dem­onstrate that his or her belief is consistent with the practices and beliefs of other ad­herents of the faith. While such evidence may be relevant to a demonstration of sin­cerity, it is not necessary. Since the focus of the inquiry is not on what others view the claimant's religious obligations as be­ing, but rather what the claimant views these personal religious 'obligations' to be, it is inappropriate to require expert opin­ions to show sincerity of belief. An 'exp­ert' or an authority on religious law is not the surro­gate for an individual's affirm­ation of what his or her religious beliefs are" - See para­graphs 1 to 69.

Civil Rights - Topic 360

Freedom of conscience and religion - Exer­cise of - Evidence and proof - [See Civil Rights - Topic 341 ].

Civil Rights - Topic 382

Freedom of conscience and religion - Infrin­gement of - What constitutes - The declar­ation of co-ownership of a luxury condo­minium building in Montreal pro­hibited constructions on the building's balconies - Some Orthodox Jews who lived in the building and signed the declaration of co-ownership without reading it sought from the plaintiff condominium syndicate per­mission to set up on their individual bal­conies a temporary hut or booth called a "succah" for the purpose of celebrating the nine-day Succoth festival - The syndi­cate refused but offered to set up a com­munal succah in the building's garden - The defendants refused the communal succah and set up their own individual succahs, after having offered to erect them "in such a way as they would not block any doors, would not obstruct fire lanes, [and] would pose no threat to safety or security in any way" - The plaintiff applied for a perma­nent injunction to remove the succahs, saying that individual succahs would inter­fere with the co-owners' rights to the peaceful enjoyment of their property and to personal security, protected under ss. 6 and 1 of Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms - The defendants responded by invoking s. 3 of Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and arguing that their freedom of religion was infringed by the prohibition against individual suc­cahs - One defendant said that the Jewish religion obliged him to set up his own succah - The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the defendants success­fully implicated freedom of religion where they demonstrated that they sincerely believed in a practice or belief that had a nexus with religion and that there was a non-trivial interference with that belief - The court added that alleged intrusions or deleterious effects on the plaintiff's rights or interest were at best minimal - Finally, the court said that the defendants had not waived freedom of religion - The court ordered that the defendants were to be permitted to set up succahs on their bal­conies, provided that the succahs remained only for the limited time necessary, all­owed for an emergency access route and conformed, as much as possible, with the general aesthetics of the property - See paragraphs 1 to 104.

Civil Rights - Topic 1501

Property - General principles - Peaceful enjoyment and free disposition of property - [See Civil Rights - Topic 382 ].

Civil Rights - Topic 7172

Federal, provincial or territorial legislation - Application - Exceptions - Waiver - [See Civil Rights - Topic 382 ].

Courts - Topic 2007

Jurisdiction - General principles - Issues not suitable for judicial determination - Religious doctrine or dispute - The Supreme Court of Canada stated: "... when courts undertake the task of analysing religious doctrine in order to determine the truth or falsity of a contentious matter of religious law, or when courts attempt to define the very concept of religious 'oblig­ation', as has been suggested in the courts below, they enter forbidden domain. It is not within the expertise and purview of secular courts to adjudicate questions of religious doctrine" - See paragraphs 65 to 67.

Cases Noticed:

Reference Re Secession of Quebec, [1998] 2 S.C.R. 217; 228 N.R. 203, refd to. [para. 1].

R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd., [1985] 1 S.C.R. 295; 58 N.R. 81; 60 A.R. 161, consd. [paras. 31, 133].

Public Service Employee Relations Com­mission (B.C.) v. British Columbia Gov­ernment and Service Employees' Union, [1999] 3 S.C.R. 3; 244 N.R. 145; 127 B.C.A.C. 161; 207 W.A.C. 161, refd to. [paras. 33, 128].

Superintendent of Motor Vehicles (B.C.) et al. v. Council of Human Rights (B.C.), [1999] 3 S.C.R. 868; 249 N.R. 45; 131 B.C.A.C. 280; 214 W.A.C. 280, refd to. [para. 33].

R. v. Videoflicks Ltd. et al., [1986] 2 S.C.R. 713; 71 N.R. 161; 19 O.A.C. 239, consd. [paras. 41, 134].

Edwards Books and Art Ltd. v. R. - see R. v. Videoflicks Ltd. et al.

Funk and Manitoba Labour Board, Re (1976), 66 D.L.R.(3d) 35, refd to. [para. 43].

R. v. Jones, [1986] 2 S.C.R. 284; 69 N.R. 241; 73 A.R. 133, consd. [paras. 44, 141].

Attis v. Board of Education of District No. 15 et al., [1996] 1 S.C.R. 825; 195 N.R. 81; 171 N.B.R.(2d) 321; 437 A.P.R. 321, consd. [paras. 44, 136, 187].

Ross v. New Brunswick School District No. 15 - see Attis v. Board of Education of District No. 15 et al.

Thomas v. Review Board of the Indiana Employment Security Division (1981), 450 U.S. 707, consd. [para. 45].

Frazee v. Illinois Department of Employment Security (1989), 489 U.S. 829, consd. [para. 45].

R. v. Laws (D.) (1998), 112 O.A.C. 253; 165 D.L.R.(4th) 301 (C.A.), consd. [para. 47].

D.P. v. C.S., [1993] 4 S.C.R. 141; 159 N.R. 241; 58 Q.A.C. 1, refd to. [paras. 61, 136].

Sheena B., Re, [1995] 1 S.C.R. 315; 176 N.R. 161; 78 O.A.C. 1, refd to. [paras. 61, 136, 187].

B.(R.) v. Children's Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto - see Sheena B., Re.

Trinity Western University et al. v. College of Teachers (B.C.) et al., [2001] 1 S.C.R. 772; 269 N.R. 1; 151 B.C.A.C. 161; 249 W.A.C. 161; 2001 SCC 31, refd to. [paras. 61, 136, 187].

Insurance Corp. of British Columbia v. Heerspink et al., [1982] 2 S.C.R. 145; 43 N.R. 168, refd to. [para. 92].

Human Rights Commission (Ont.), Dunlop, Hall and Gray v. Borough of Etobicoke, [1982] 1 S.C.R. 202; 40 N.R. 159, refd to. [para. 92].

Newfoundland Association of Public Employees v. Newfoundland (Green Bay Health Care Centre) - see Newfoundland Association of Public Employees v. Newfoundland et al.

Newfoundland Association of Public Employees v. Newfoundland et al., [1996] 2 S.C.R. 3; 196 N.R. 212; 140 Nfld. & P.E.I.R. 63; 438 A.P.R. 63, refd to. [para. 92].

Social Services Administration Board (Parry Sound District) v. Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Local 324 et al., [2003] 2 S.C.R. 157; 308 N.R. 271; 177 O.A.C. 235; 2003 SCC 42, refd to. [para. 92].

R. v. Mills (B.J.), [1999] 3 S.C.R. 668; 248 N.R. 101; 244 A.R. 201; 209 W.A.C. 201, refd to. [para. 92].

R. v. Rahey, [1987] 1 S.C.R. 588; 75 N.R. 81; 78 N.S.R.(2d) 183; 193 A.P.R. 183, refd to. [para. 92].

R. v. Richard (R.), [1996] 3 S.C.R. 525; 203 N.R. 8; 182 N.B.R.(2d) 161; 463 A.P.R. 161, refd to. [para. 92].

Métropolitaine (La), compagnie d'as­sur­ance-vie v. Frenette, Hôpital Jean-Talon et un autre, [1992] 1 S.C.R. 647; 134 N.R. 169; 46 Q.A.C. 161, refd to. [para. 92].

Godbout v. Longueuil (Ville), [1997] 3 S.C.R. 844; 219 N.R. 1, consd. [para. 97].

Quebec (Procureur général) v. Lambert, [2002] R.J.Q. 599 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 124].

Bowman v. Secular Society Ltd., [1917] A.C. 406 (H.L.), refd to. [para. 135].

R. v. Registrar General; Ex parte Segerdal, [1970] 2 Q.B. 697 (Engl. C.A.), refd to. [para. 135].

Barralet v. Attorney General, [1980] 3 All E.R. 918 (Ch. D.), refd to. [para. 135].

Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972), 406 U.S. 205, refd to. [para. 135].

Ford v. Québec (Procureur général) - see Chaussure Brown's Inc. et al. v. Québec (Procureur général).

Chaussure Brown's Inc. et al. v. Québec (Procureur général), [1988] 2 S.C.R. 712; 90 N.R. 84; 19 Q.A.C. 69, consd. [para. 148, 197].

Aubry v. Editions Vice-Versa Inc. et al., [1998] 1 S.C.R. 591; 224 N.R. 321, consd. [paras. 153, 191].

Prud'homme v. Prud'homme, [2002] 4 S.C.R. 663; 297 N.R. 331; 2002 SCC 85, refd to. [para. 154].

Devine v. Québec (Procureur général) - see Singer (Allan) Ltd. v. Québec (Procureur général) et al.

Singer (Allan) Ltd. v. Québec (Procureur général) et al., [1988] 2 S.C.R. 790; 90 N.R. 48; 19 Q.A.C. 33, refd to. [para. 154].

Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v. Dagenais et al., [1994] 3 S.C.R. 835; 175 N.R. 1; 76 O.A.C. 81, consd. [para. 173].

Quebec (Commission des droits de la personne) v. Desroches, [1997] R.J.Q. 1540; 149 D.L.R.(4th) 425 (Que. C.A.), consd. [para. 175].

Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith (1990), 494 U.S. 872, refd to. [para. 189].

Statutes Noticed:

Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, R.S.Q. 1977, c. C-12, sect. 1, sect. 3, sect. 6, sect. 9.1 [para. 18].

Civil Code of Québec, S.Q. 1991, c. 64, art. 1039, art. 1056, art. 1063 [para. 18].

Authors and Works Noticed:

Brun, Henri, and Tremblay, Guy, Droit constitutionnel (4th Ed. 2002), p. 1033 [paras. 137, 139, 188].

Brun, Henri, Un aspect crucial mais délicat des libertés de conscience et de religion des articles 2 et 3 des Chartes canadienne et québécoise: l'objection de conscience (1987), 28 C. de D. 185, p. 195 [para. 138].

Chevrette, François, La disposition limita­tive de la Charte des droits et libertés de la personne: le dit et le non-dit (1987), 21 R.J.T. 461, pp. 465 [para. 150]; 466 [para. 152]; 468, 469 [para. 174].

Macklem, Timothy, Faith as a Secular Value (2000), 45 McGill L.J. 1, p. 25 [para. 137].

Mill, John Stuart, On Liberty and Consid­er­a­tions on Representative Government (1946), p. 11 [para. 61].

Québec, Assemblée nationale, Journal des débats: Commissions parlementaires, 3rd Sess., 32nd Legislature (December 16, 1982), p. B-11609 [paras. 151, 191].

Tancelin, Maurice, L'acte unilatéral en droit des obligations ou l'unilatéralisation du contrat, in Kasirier, N., La Solitude en droit privé (2002), pp. 214, 216, 217 [para. 138].

Tribe, Laurence H., American Constitu­tion­al Law (2nd Ed. 1988), pp. 1244 [para. 55]; 1245, 1246 [para. 52].

Woehrling, José, L'obligation d'ac­com­mode­ment raisonnable et l'adaptation de la société à la diversité religieuse (1998), 43 McGill L.J. 325, p. 385 [para. 42]; 388 [para. 138]; 394 [para. 53].

Counsel:

Julius H. Grey, Lynne-Marie Casgrain, Elisabeth Goodwin and Jean-Philippe Desmarais, for the appellants, Moïse Amselem, Gladys Bouhadana, Antal Klein and Gabriel Fonfeder;

David Matas and Steven G. Slimovitch, for the appellant, the League for Human Rights of B'Nai Brith Canada;

Pierre-G. Champagne and Yves Joli-Coeur, for the respondent;

Dale Fedorchuk, Bradley Minuk and Dave Ryan, for the interveners, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada;

Palbinder K. Shergill, for the intervener, the World Sikh Organization of Canada;

Prabhu Rajan, for the intervener the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

Solicitors of Record:

Grey Casgrain, Montreal, Quebec, for the appellants, Moïse Amselem, Gladys Bou­hadana, Antal Klein and Gabriel Fon­fe­der;

Steven G. Slimovitch, Montreal, Quebec, for the appellant, the League for Human Rights of B'Nai Brith Canada,

de Grandpré Joli-Coeur, Montreal, Quebec, for the respondent;

Chipeur Advocates, Calgary, Alberta, for the interveners, the Evangelical Fellow­ship of Canada and the Seventh-day Ad­ventist Church in Canada;

Peterson Stark Scott, Surrey, British Col­umbia, for the intervener, the World Sikh Organization of Canada;

Ontario Human Rights Commission, Tor­on­to, Ontario, for the intervener, the Ontario Human Rights Commission;

Segal Laforest, Montreal, Quebec, for the mis en cause.

No one appearing for the mis en cause.

This appeal was heard on January 19, 2004, by McLachlin, C.J.C., Iacobucci, Major, Bastarache, Binnie, Arbour, LeBel, Deschamps and Fish, JJ., of the Supreme Court of Canada.

The judgment of the Supreme Court was delivered in both official languages on June 30, 2004, and the following reasons were filed:

Iacobucci, J. (McLachlin, C.J.C., Major, Arbour and Fish, JJ., concurring) - see paragraphs 1 to 104;

Bastarache, J. (LeBel and Deschamps, JJ., concurring), dissenting - see para­graphs 105 to 182;

Binnie, J., dissenting - see paragraphs 183 to 210.

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