Manifesting Belief in Canadian Law: What is 'Freedom of Conscience'?
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Of all the freedoms articulated within the Canadian Charter, the least defined continues to be freedom of conscience. Discussions of this freedom within the secondary literature have been relatively superficial, and, to date, no Supreme Court of Canada decision has rested on freedom of conscience. This is not to say that freedom of conscience has been entirely ignored. There has been some discussion of it within the case law, and particularly in relation to freedom of religion. This thesis draws upon those cases that reference freedom of conscience to construct a clearer image of what the scope and meaning of that freedom might be. In particular, the thesis seeks to define freedom of conscience within the context of Canadian law, examine how the courts have operationalized this freedom, and outline the relationship between freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. This thesis will also explore the relationships that have been established by the Supreme Court between freedom of conscience and the rest of the Charter – particularly freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the right to life, liberty, and security of the person. These questions are fundamentally important to understanding not only the individual importance of freedom of conscience within the Charter, but also to understanding the Charter as a whole.