The Role of Choice in Women’s Freedom of Religion Claims in Canada

Vol 36 No. 2 (2017) Religious Studies and Theology

Jonnette Watson Hamilton [+-]
University of Calgary
University of Calgary
Jennifer Koshan [+-]
University of Calgary
University of Calgary


This essay explores whether religious women’s reliance on choice to ground their rights claims may undermine the success of those claims. Canadian courts have interpreted religious freedom under section 2(a) of the Charter to include a strong element of choice. However, some religious choices have not received protection under section 2(a), nor under the section 15 guarantee of equality, particularly those choices that are seen to be the cause of the claimant’s harm or that cause harm to others. Our analysis centres on a case examining a Muslim woman’s freedom to wear a niqab during citizenship ceremonies, situating this case in the broader context of decisions involving women, religious freedom, equality, and choice. These cases confirm insights from the feminist literature about the relationship between choice, agency and autonomy, individualization, and the public/private dichotomy. We conclude that a de-emphasis on choice may be strategic for religious women’s rights claims.

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Watson Hamilton, Jonnette; Koshan, Jennifer. The Role of Choice in Women’s Freedom of Religion Claims in Canada. Religious Studies and Theology, United Kingdom. v. 36, n. 2 p. 171-186 Nov 2017. ISSN 1747-5414. Date accessed: 24 Aug 2019 doi: 10.1558/rsth.35157. Nov 2017

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