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Creed[1] is not a defined term in the Code. The OHRC has adopted the following definition of creed:

Creed is interpreted to mean "religious creed" or "religion.” It is defined as a professed system and confession of faith, including both beliefs and observances or worship. A belief in a God or gods, or a single supreme being or deity is not a requisite.

Religion is broadly accepted by the OHRC to include, for example, non-deistic bodies of faith, such as the spiritual faiths/practices of aboriginal cultures, as well as bona fide newer religions (assessed on a case by case basis).

The existence of religious beliefs and practices are both necessary and sufficient to the meaning of creed, if the beliefs and practices are sincerely held and/or observed.

"Creed" is defined subjectively. The Code protects personal religious beliefs, practices or observances, even if they are not essential elements of the creed[2] provided they are sincerely held.

It is the OHRC's position that every person has the right to be free from discriminatory or harassing behaviour that is based on religion or which arises because the person who is the target of the behaviour does not share the same faith. This principle extends to situations where the person who is the target of such behaviour has no religious beliefs whatsoever, including atheists and agnostics who may, in these circumstances, benefit from the protection set out in the Code.[3]

In either situation, creed must be involved – either because the person who is the subject of the discrimination is seeking to practice his or her own religion, or because the person who is harassing or discriminating is trying to impose their creed on someone else. In both cases, creed must be involved.

Creed does not include secular, moral or ethical beliefs or political convictions.[4] This policy does not extend to religions that incite hatred or violence against other individuals or groups,[5] or to practices and observances that purport to have a religious basis but which contravene international human rights standards or criminal law.[6]

[1] Human rights laws in other Canadian jurisdictions use terms such as "religion" as prohibited grounds of discrimination. For a review of decisions dealing with "creed" and "religion,” see Tarnopolsky, Discrimination and the Law (Toronto: Richard deBoo, 1985) at 6-1 to 6-6.
[2] See Singh v. Workmen's Compensation Board Hospital & Rehabilitation Centre (1981), 2 C.H.R.R. D/549 (Ontario Board of Inquiry); Bhinder v. Canadian National Railway Co. (1981), 2 C.H.R.R. D/546 (Cdn. Human Rights Tribunal), reversed [1983] 2 F.C. 531, affirmed [1985] 2 S.C.R. 561.
[3] Atheists deny the existence of God; agnostics are of the view that nothing is known or likely to be known about the existence of God.
[4] But see Obdeyn v. Walbar Machine Products of Canada Ltd. (1982), 3 C.H.R.R. D/712 (Ont. Bd. of Inquiry) at D/716 - D/717.
[5] Not only are such groups not protected under the Code, but they may also be subject to provisions of the Criminal Code. Any reports of activities involving such groups should be immediately reported to the police.
[6] For example, female genital mutilation is a violation of women's human rights and is not protected on the ground of creed. See the Commission's Policy on Female Genital Mutilation.


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