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Humanist Ottawa Calls Out Canadian Governments via United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review

Humanist Ottawa Calls for Action to Address Religious Discrimination in Canada

OTTAWA, April 5, 2023 — Humanist Ottawa (HO) has identified significant concerns with the Canadian legislative framework, citing evidence that it perpetuates systemic religious discrimination in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The organisation is advocating for change in two key areas: state-funded separate school systems for minority religious populations and the inconsistent regulation of marriage solemnization across provinces.

“There’s an enormous loophole in Canada’s legal framework”, said Robert Hamilton, President of Humanist Ottawa. “It drives preferential religious practices in the funding and administration of Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan schools to the detriment of believers in other faiths as well as non-believers in any religion.”

The Ontario Superior Court’s recent dismissal of a case addressing state-funded separate school systems for minority Catholic and Protestant populations highlights the deep-rooted religious discrimination in Canada’s legislation. This situation is compounded by the inconsistencies in provincial regulations governing marriage solemnization, which creates a discriminatory environment for humanists and the non-religious.

HO argues that these discriminatory practices damage Canada’s reputation as a nation that upholds human rights and equality. As a result, the organisation is recommending a series of actions:

  1. Establish by November 2025 a publicly accessible legal defence fund for Canadians who have human rights claims against any federal/provincial/territorial government or its agencies in matters of systemic faithism, and freedom of religion or belief.
  2. Establish by April 2026 a task force responsible jointly to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and The Council of the Federation to research and propose solutions to Canada’s ongoing funding of faith-based educational institutions and establish an action-oriented plan, within three years, which treats all Canadians equally and fairly.
  3. By November 2026, hold a referendum vote on the fair treatment of all Canadians in matters of public funding of faith-based educational institutions. The referendum question should solicit the perspective of Canadians as to whether they support the claims of constitutionality of discriminatory funding.
  4. By November 2027, amend the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to formally assert neutrality in all matters of religion, whether historically based or not, and reject systemic faithism as a violation of the human rights of all Canadians. 

Humanist Ottawa is dedicated to promoting the principles of fairness, equality, and the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. HO is committed to advocating for change to ensure that all Canadians, regardless of their province of residence, have access to the same rights and freedoms.

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