Canada’s laws regulating prostitution are a major current example. Last December in one decision the Supreme
Court ruled these hundred-year-old laws to be unconstitutional and struck them down.
They included provisions dealing with soliciting, pimping and brothels, or to use formal language, “
communication for the purposes of prostitution,” “living off the avails
of prostitution” and owning a “common bawdy house.”
The Court suspended its decision so that the existing
laws remain in effect for one year. If the government does
not introduce new laws, or invoke the notwithstanding
clause, there will be no laws on prostitution in Canada.
Twenty-five years ago the EFC needed to develop a
rationale for why a Christian organization would go to
court. Some felt uncomfortable with the EFC taking on
Now, if we are not applying for intervener status on a
significant case, we need to explain why not.
Certainly the Charter has made intervening before the
courts an important part of promoting a biblical vision of
life in law and public policy.
Battles over the meaning of freedom of religion, the
meaning and substance of fundamental principles of justice, the meaning of life, liberty and security of the person,
the nature of equality, the balancing of rights and freedoms, and what is a reasonable limit on our freedoms in a
free and democratic society – all of these are encompassed
by the Charter.
The Charter uses these concepts, but offers no definitions. That is up to the courts. And that is why it is so
important to be before the courts. Part of the parties’ task
is to assist the Court in deciding what these terms mean
and how they are to be applied.
Critical to interpreting and applying the Charter are
the principles, the norms, what the Court calls “Charter
On this level Evangelicals have a lot to contribute to
the dialogue about the nature of religion and the scope of
religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, the dignity
of the human person and the care for the vulnerable.
By participating as interveners we offer the wisdom
of the principles we find in the Word of God, and seek to
show how these principles will contribute to the public
good, to justice and to peace. It is an important part of
Christian public witness in Canada today. FT
BRUCe J. CLeMengeR is president of The evangelical
Fellowship of Canada. Please pray for our work. You can
also support it financially at www.theeFC.ca/donate
or toll-free at 1-866-302-3362.
ThegatheringPlace n BY BRUCe J. CLeMenGeR
It’s never predictable, and always the stakes are high. Ap- pearing before the courts of Canada, and particularly the Supreme Court, is a privilege and quite a responsibility.
The EFC is closing in on 50 court interventions in the
EFC’s 50 years. All, in fact, in the past 25 years. Why is it
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, enacted in 1982, has
significantly changed the role that our courts, and particularly the Supreme Court, plays in shaping Canada’s laws.
The Charter empowered the Supreme Court to determine not only jurisdictional matters and interpretations of
law, but also to assess whether laws passed by Parliament
and provincial legislatures are consistent with the rights
and freedoms set out in the Charter, such as freedoms
of religion, thought, expression, peaceful assembly, political action, relocation, life, liberty, security, equality and
Unlike the United States, where courts have the final
word over governments, Canada also has the notwithstanding clause, a hard-won provision from the constitutional debates in the early 1980s.
If the courts rule a law unconstitutional because that
law violates the Charter, the notwithstanding clause enables governments to override the courts. However, it is
rarely used. The one exception is Quebec’s language laws
privileging French. And when the notwithstanding clause
is invoked, it must be re-invoked every five years.
To the extent legislatures remain wary of using it, and
they are very wary, is the extent to which the Supreme
Court has the final word. The result is that laws passed by
Parliament are subject to challenges in the courts, and the
courts have become, in effect, the final arbiter.
The Supreme good
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has
made intervening before the courts an
important part of promoting biblical prin-
ciples in Canadian society.
Together for influence, impact and identity
The evangelical Fellowship of Canada is the national association of
evangelicals gathered together for influence, impact and identity
in ministry and public witness. since 1964 the eFC has provided a
national forum for evangelicals and a constructive voice for biblical
principles in life and society. visit us at www.theeFC.ca.