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R v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd, [1985] 1 SCR 295


Big M Drug Mart charged with carrying on sale of goods on Sunday, contrary to Lord’s Day Act. Challenged on 2(a).


Is 2(a) infringed?


Lord’s Day Act is unconstitutional contrary to 2(a) because the legislation had a determinative religious purpose. Parliament cannot rely on an ultra vires purpose for s.1 justification, as these sectarian laws cannot have a pressing and substantial purpose.


*Two ways to characterize the purpose of the legislation
**1. Christian institution of the Sabbath (this was preferred interpretation)
**2. Providing a uniform day of rest from labour
*Both purpose and effect are relevant in determining constitutionality, if either is unconstitutional it can invalidate legislation
**Since the purpose of the Act offends freedom of religion, it is unnecessary to consider the effects/impact on religious freedom
**Sequential analysis; if purpose valid, move to effects
**Effects can never be relied upon to save legislation with an invalid purpose
***It was counter-argued here that effects were secular
*Purpose of legislation CANNOT shift:
**Would create uncertainty in the law, re-litigation, and invite judicial critique
*Freedom = the absence of coercion or constraint
**Coercion includes indirect control which limits available alternatives of conduct
**Act takes Christian values and transforms into positive, binding law on everyone
*Charter Interpretation: Placing the right in its proper linguistic and historical context,
**1. Reference the character and larger objects of the Charter itself
**2. Language chosen to articulate specific right or freedom
**3. Historical origins of the concept
**4. Meaning and purpose of associated rights and freedoms, when applicable
*Government may not coerce individuals to affirm a specific religious belief or to manifest a specific religious practice for a sectarian purpose
**The Charter means each person works out his/her religious beliefs and the state cannot dictate otherwise
*S.1 Analysis
**The fact the legislative purpose is religious automatically disqualifies from s.1 justification
**Parliament cannot rely on an ultra vires purpose as s.1 justification, as these sectarian laws cannot have a pressing and substantial purpose.
**Struck down under s.52

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