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The OHRC’s Application for leave to Intervene at the Federal Court of Appeal in Minister of Citizenship and Immigration v. Ishaq

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The OHRC sought leave to intervene in an appeal of the Federal Court’s decision to strike down a policy banning citizenship candidates from wearing face coverings during the citizenship oath. However, the Federal Court of Appeal denied the intervention motions of the OHRC along with all five of the other proposed interveners.

The OHRC wished to address the Charter issues raised - in particular, the appropriate legal framework and analysis of infringements of freedom of religion and equality rights and justifications for limits on these rights by relying on “Canadian values.”

Although this appeal concerns a federal government policy, the OHRC sought to intervene because a number of decisions have recognized the close relationship between the protection of freedom of religion under section 2(a) of the Charter and the right to be free from discrimination based on religion or creed under human rights legislation.  Equality rights under the Charter also substantially overlap with equality rights protected by human rights legislation.

A number of the OHRC’s previous interventions have addressed religious and equality rights under the Code and the Charter. As well, the OHRC has undertaken extensive research relevant to the legal and factual context of this case, including Canadian democratic and constitutional values and how they interact with rights protected under human rights legislation and the Charter. The OHRC has developed a policy framework to address competing rights claims and is currently in the process of updating its Policy on Creed and the Accommodation of Religious Observances.