The EFC Receives Intervenor Status in Marriage Commissioner Reference
February 1, 2010, OTTAWA – The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) has received intervenor status in the Saskatchewan marriage commissioner reference. In July, the Justice Minister of Saskatchewan asked the Court of Appeal for an opinion on potential legislation which would permit marriage commissioners to decline performing same-sex marriages if contrary to their religious beliefs. The government has proposed two potential legislative options; one permitting marriage commissioners appointed before November 5, 2004 to refuse to solemnize a marriage contrary to their religious beliefs and the second would allow any marriage commissioner the same right. The Court of Appeal is tasked with determining whether either or both meet the constitutional standard of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The EFC will file written arguments and attend at the reference on May 13 and 14, 2010 before the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal in Regina. A number of intervenors have been granted status including EFC affiliate Christian Legal Fellowship, as well as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Fellowship of Churches and Ministers, the Seventh Day Adventist Church and EGALE Canada Inc.
The EFC supports only the proposed legislation that would protect and ensure the religious and conscience freedoms of all marriage commissioners.
“Some have argued that the state’s duty to accommodate only applies in private settings,” states Faye Sonier, Legal Counsel for the EFC. “Somehow, they perceive the right to freedom of conscience and religion doesn’t apply to an employee in a public role. That position is inconsistent with the Charter and Canadian jurisprudence. Human rights and employment law jurisprudence has well established that a Canadian, whether working in the private or public sector, may object to performing a task if it is contrary to their conscience or religious beliefs. To strip all Canadians who choose to serve the public in a government accredited role of their Charter rights is ludicrous.”
“We need to be clear,” explains Don Hutchinson, EFC Vice-President and General Legal Counsel, “there is an important distinction between the right to be married and the right to be married by a particular person. The first is an actual right and the latter is not. Let’s not pretend it is.”
The EFC will be proposing that, following a proper balancing of rights, accommodations can be made that would best respect all parties’ rights.
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