LEST LAW FORGET: Locke's Toleration and Religious Freedom
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The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees every person in Canada freedom of conscience and religion. I contend that the concept of religious freedom was born out of a history of religious suffering and originally took the form of John Locke’s toleration of religious differences. In Big M, the first Supreme Court of Canada case that interpreted s. 2(a), Chief Justice Dickson recognized the historical context of religious freedom but also tied it to human autonomy, equality, and dignity. An examination of the cases since Big M suggests that when courts think in terms of tolerance, they accord greater protection to religious freedom. When they lose sight of the historical justification and consider religious claims within the framework of equality, there is a tendency to fail to give freedom of religion its due weight and proper place in Canadian society.