In its submission, made as part of the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Canada, Humanist Ottawa highlights how laws in several Canadian states perpetuate systemic religious discrimination in the field of education and marriage equality.
The submission describes how State funding for Catholic schools, provided for by law in several Canadian provinces, has led to entrenched discrimination, including in staff hiring practices and student admissions. In addition, while “students…may theoretically opt out of mandatory religious instruction, the little used process is made onerous through complex and demanding administrative requirements,” the organization stated.
The organization also critiqued Canada’s inconsistent regulation of marriage solemnization across provinces, which has led to a system whereby some Canadians are granted the right to have their marriage solemnized by a humanist officiant, while others are not, in violation of their right to equality.
The organization concluded its submission by recommending a series of actions, including (in summary) for Canada to:
Commenting on the UPR submission, Robert Hamilton, President of Humanist Ottawa, stated:
“An entrenched history of state sanctioned discriminatory practices has prevented many from seeing the direct violation of international human rights. Extending preferential treatment to members of certain religions while discriminating against others — including the non-religious — is a kind of systemic faithism.”
Humanist Ottawa attended Humanists International’s 2023 workshop on the UPR. The UPR is a process that examines the human rights performance of all UN Member States once every five years and aims to hold States’ accountable for their human rights violations.