2013 REPORT ON
INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: CANADA CHAPTER
Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
2013 Report on International Religious Freedom
April 28, 2014
Reprinted from state.gov.
The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious
freedom, and in practice, the government generally respected
religious freedom. The government established an Office of Religious
Freedom headed by an official of ambassadorial rank. This office was
designed to promote religious freedom and oppose intolerance around
There were reports of societal abuse or discrimination based on
religious affiliation, belief, or practice, including both
anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim acts.
The U.S. embassy and consulates supported religious freedom through
visits to places of worship and outreach to religious groups.
Section I. Religious Demography
The U.S. government estimates the total population at 34.6 million
(July 2013 estimate). According to the 2011 census, the most recent
to ask about religious affiliation, approximately 67 percent of the
population is Christian. Roman Catholics (39 percent of the
population) constitute the largest group, followed by Protestant
denominations (22 percent). The United, the Anglican, Presbyterian,
Lutheran, Baptist, and Pentecostal churches are the largest
Protestant groups. Approximately 3 percent of the population is
Muslim and 1 percent is Jewish. Groups that together constitute less
than 4 percent of the population include Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs,
Scientologists, Bahais, and adherents of Shintoism and Taoism.
According to the 2011 census, 0.2 percent of the population
identifies itself as followers of "aboriginal spirituality."
Approximately 24 percent of the population claims no religious
Most recent immigrants are of Asian origin and generally adhere to
religious beliefs different from the majority of native-born
citizens. According to the 2011 census, "visible minorities"
constitute 19.1 percent of the overall population, with a majority
residing in major metropolitan areas across the country.
Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom
The constitution and other laws and policies generally protect
religious freedom. Citizens have the right to sue the government for
constitutional violations of religious freedom.
The government requires candidates for Canadian citizenship to
uncover the face when swearing the oath of citizenship to verify
that each candidate recites the oath.
The law does not require religious groups to register with the
government. The government grants tax-exempt status to religious
groups through the Charities Directorate of the tax authority, the
Canada Revenue Agency. This status provides religious groups with
federal and provincial sales tax reductions, rebates, and
exemptions. To gain and retain tax-exempt status, these groups must
be nonpolitical, send overseas donations only to approved
recipients, and undergo periodic audits. Through this same
government-approved charitable status, clergy receive various
federal benefits, including a clergy housing deduction under the tax
code and expedited processing through the immigration system.
Individual citizens who donate to tax-exempt religious groups
receive a federal tax receipt entitling them to federal income tax
The constitution guarantees the rights and privileges that existed
at the time of national union in 1867 of Protestant and Catholic
minorities to denominational education. Constitutionally protected
public funding for denominational schools exists only for members of
the Catholic Church in Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. The same
protection does not extend to schools of other religious groups,
although some provinces provide limited public funding for these
institutions. The law permits parents to home-school their children
and to enroll them in private schools for religious reasons.
Education falls under the purview of the provinces, not the federal
government. Six of the 10 provinces provide at least partial funding
to some religious schools.
Ontario is the only province that funds Catholic religious education
while providing no funding for other religious schools. The issue of
extending public funding to non-Catholic religious schools in the
province has been the subject of litigation since 1978.
The government is a member of the International Holocaust
Issues involving the exercise of religious freedom at the federal
and provincial levels included limits on religious expression.
In April an Ontario judge ruled that a female Muslim complainant had
to remove her religious face covering to testify during a sexual
assault trial. In 2012, the Supreme Court had ruled that presiding
trial judges should determine whether individuals could wear
religious face coverings while testifying in court on a case-by-case
basis. The complainant appealed the trial judge's decision that she
should remove her face covering, and the appeal remained pending at
the end of the year.
On February 19, the government established an Office of Religious
Freedom within the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and
Development headed by an official of ambassadorial rank to protect
and advocate on behalf of religious minorities under threat around
the world, to oppose religious hatred and intolerance, and promote
pluralism and tolerance abroad.
On March 5, Canada assumed the chairmanship of the International
Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and hosted the Alliance's annual
conference in October in Toronto. The conference approved a working
definition of Holocaust Denial and Distortion as a public education
and awareness tool. Events throughout the year in support of
Holocaust education and remembrance included a national project to
preserve survivor testimony, an Award for Excellence in Holocaust
Education to recognize outstanding teachers, and a poster
competition for Canadian graphics, art, and design students to
support Holocaust Memorial Day activities.
On April 23, the government announced the selection of a site in
Ottawa for a National Holocaust Monument. The Minister of
Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism attended the National
Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony hosted by the Canadian Society
for Yad Vashem and the Zachor Coalition and lit candles in memory of
In May the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled that the mayor of Saguenay,
Quebec, could continue to begin council meetings with a prayer and
retain a crucifix and Christian religious statue at city hall. A
citizen had challenged the official prayer and the religious symbols
as an infringement on freedom of conscience. The court ruled that
religious neutrality does not require "that society be cleansed of
all denominational reality" and that the act of prayer by individual
councilors, and the retention of the religious symbols as cultural
artifacts, did not indicate that the municipal council was under the
influence of, or trying to impose, a particular religion.
On February 27, the Supreme Court ruled that restrictions imposed by
Saskatchewan's hate speech law constituted reasonable limits on
freedom of expression and freedom of religion to prevent harm to
minority groups. The decision was part of a 2011 appeal regarding a
citizen who had handed out fliers denouncing homosexuality on
On September 13, the Manitoba government enacted an anti-bullying
law requiring public and private schools in the province to
establish diversity policies and accommodate student activities that
promote inclusion, including permitting gay-straight alliances
(student-led organizations that promote inclusion among persons of
all sexual orientations). Some faith-based schools and parents
stated that the law infringed on their freedom to prohibit student
activities that contradicted their religious beliefs.
On August 21, Agnes Maltais, the Quebec minister responsible for the
status of women, wrote to her federal counterpart stating that some
speakers at an upcoming Muslim youth conference in Montreal "convey
values that are totally contrary to the principles of gender
equality that are defended in Quebec." The letter referenced a 2011
Quebec National Assembly motion requesting that Canada refuse entry
to speakers at a similar event. In her letter, the minister
requested that "in accordance with the  National Assembly
motion and as the Minister responsible for the status of women in
Quebec, I ask you to take all necessary measures to prevent the
spreading of these inacceptable messages to the women in Quebec."
Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom
There were reports of societal abuse and discrimination based on
religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Because ethnicity and
religion are often closely linked, it is difficult to categorize
many incidents specifically as ethnic or religious intolerance.
On September 2, vandals splattered a mosque in Chicoutimi, Quebec,
with a substance that media reports identified as pig blood. An
anonymous anti-Islamic letter was also sent to the mosque and to a
local radio station. Quebec Premier Pauline Marois denounced the
vandalism as "unacceptable" and emphasized that Quebec respected
diversity. Police investigated, but by year's end, had made no
On March 6, vandals spray painted anti-Islamic graffiti on the wall
of the Muslim Society of Guelph's Islamic Center in Guelph, Ontario.
Police investigated, but made no arrests. The Muslim Society
responded with a community event held one month later, with more
than 300 attendees.
The B'nai Brith Canada League for Human Rights received 1,345
reports of anti-Semitic incidents in 2012, the most recent year for
which data was available, up 3.7 percent from 2011. More than half
of such reports came from Ontario. The reports included 1,013 cases
of harassment, 319 cases of vandalism, and 13 cases of violence.
There were 25 cases involving attacks on synagogues, 144 involving
private homes, and 25 involving community centers. Jewish students
reported 79 cases of anti-Semitic incidents on university campuses,
compared with 113 in 2011; another 79 involved primary and secondary
school settings, compared with 89 in 2010. B'nai Brith also received
521 reports of Web-based hate activity, compared with 528 in 2011.
In May a Manitoba teenager pleaded guilty to setting the hair of a
Jewish classmate alight while uttering anti-Semitic slurs in 2011.
The judge delayed sentencing in June subject to a forensic
psychiatrist's report that remained pending at the end of the year.
In June assailants scrawled a swastika and the message "watch your
children" on the garage door of the home of a Jewish family in
Toronto. Toronto Police arrested an adult and two teenagers and
charged them with multiple counts of attempted theft, property
offenses and mischief in connection with a series of incidents in
On August 21, vandals defaced four homes and several parked cars in
Vaughan, Ontario, with swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti. The
community has a large Jewish population. York Regional Police
investigated. Also in August vandals carved a swastika into a golf
green at a golf club in Richmond Hill, Ontario.
In March two Jewish brothers filed suit for libel to stop the
distribution of anti-Semitic posters in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The
posters, titled "$hitlers List," primarily targeted the Jewish mayor
of Winnipeg and accused prominent Jews in the city of being part of
a "cabal of cockroaches." The suit also alleged the brothers were
victims of hate speech. The provincial attorney general's office
declined to bring charges against the distributor of the posters
because the materials did not explicitly promote genocide.
Section IV. U.S. Government Policy
U.S. government representatives collaborated with the government to
promote religious freedom. The U.S. embassy and consulates conducted
regular outreach to religious leaders, NGOs, and religious groups.
On April 8, the U.S. Ambassador visited and spoke at the Ottawa
Mosque, the city's largest mosque, on respect for religious freedom
and building bridges between religious communities. Together with
embassy staff, he also greeted local imams, community leaders, and
members of the mosque at a reception following the event.
In October embassy officials attended the 5th annual All-Party
Interfaith Parliamentary Friendship Group Breakfast and participated
in a roundtable discussion afterwards on best practices for
promoting the freedom of religion within the country.
On August 16, embassy representatives attended a Friday service and
congregational prayer at a musalla (an area outside a mosque that is
used mainly for praying) in east Ottawa, and greeted congregants at
a lunch following the service.
Staff of the embassy and consulates attended community iftar and Eid
dinners. On July 31, consulate representatives in Montreal attended
an interfaith iftar dinner sponsored by L'Institut du Dialogue
Interculturel with leaders of the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian
communities. On October 22, embassy representatives attended the
19th annual Eid-ul-Adha Dinner, organized by the Association of
Progressive Muslims of Canada. Local Muslim, Jewish and Christian
leaders, as well as government officials, attended the dinner.
On April 23, an embassy official attended a National Holocaust
Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa. The Canadian Society hosted this
ceremony for Yad Vashem and the Zachor Coalition to commemorate
victims of the Holocaust.
In October embassy officials attended the inaugural seminar of the
Canadian Office of Religious Freedom with leaders of faith
The Full Report can be read here