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Syndicat Northcrest v. Amselem, [2004] 2 SCR 551


Condo association refused, in accordance with the condo contract, to permit Jewish unit owners to construct succahs on their balconies as part of a Jewish festival. The Orthodox Jews wanted to build the huts on a subjective interpretation of their religious faith. Arises in context of Quebec Charter (quasi-constitutional analysis) which recognizes enjoyment to property.


Offers cogent definition of what religion is and the scope of s.2(a). “Sincere” religious belief is all that is required:

Definition of Section 2(a): “…the freedom to undertake practices and harbour beliefs, having a nexus with religion, in which an individual demonstrates he or she sincerely believes or is sincerely undertaking in order to connect with the divine or as a function of his or her spiritual faith, irrespective of whether a particular practice or belief is required by official religious dogma or is in conformity with the position of religious officials”


*Impairment of the religious freedom is serious while the intrusion on the association’s rights is minimal
*[39] Religion is:
**Particular and comprehensive system of faith and worship
**Belief in a divine power, deeply held convictions about a faith
**Does NOT make reference to religion as a collective enterprise
*[46] Freedom of religion consists of:
**Protected irrespective of whether a particular practice/belief is required by official religious dogma or in conformity with religious officials
***Objective determination of validity would interfere with profound personal beliefs contrary to the principle laid down in Edward Books
**Encompasses belief, obligation, precept, commandment, custom and/or ritual
***Voluntary expressions of faith are protected
*[50] Court should avoid judicially interpreting content of religious requirement – they are not qualified to arbitrate religious dogma
*[53] Assessing religious credibility (question of fact with a low threshold):
**Credibility of testimony – but NOT past practice or beliefs
**Whether alleged belief is consistent with his/her other religious practices
*Was It Infringed?
**The burden is on the plaintiff to show that the ability the act in accordance with his/her religious beliefs is not trivial or insubstantial
**Objective Test for Triviality: Degree of interference is integrally linked to the sincere belief

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