Yes, freedom of religion is a fundamental right in Canada. This is outlined in Human Rights Code of Manitoba and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These contain specific provisions that protect and ensure your right to practice any religion or no religion at all.
This freedom protects your right to choose your religious beliefs, traditions and practices and to be free from being forced to practice or believe something you don’t want to. It also allows individuals to make a personal choice about how to interpret and practice their religion. This right, just like any other, is not absolute. You have all these protections as long as the belief or practice does not cause harm or interfere with the rights and freedoms of others in society.
Religions in Manitoba
According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, a big part of Manitoba’s population is Christian with one-quarter of the population having no religious affiliation and about 5% belonging to non-Christian denominations. The top three Christian religions are Roman Catholic, United Church, and Anglican, with a small but significant number of people belonging to the Mennonite, Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox churches (T.R. Weir, Manitoba, The Canadian Encyclopedia). For a more detailed description of religious diversity in Manitoba, go to Religious Diversity in Manitoba 2011 (Statistics Canada, 2011 National Household Survey, page 26).
What is religious discrimination?
Every person has the right to be treated with equal dignity and respect regardless of what you believe or practice and whether you subscribe to a particular set of religious beliefs of don’t. For this reason, you cannot be discriminated against for your beliefs especially in the following areas:
- Services, good and facilities
- Unions, professional associations and other vocational associations
For example, if you are refused service, a job, or membership because of your religious beliefs, it is religious discrimination. This is illegal in Canada. If you feel that you have been discriminated against, contact the Manitoba Human Rights Commission.
Finding a place of worship
Having a safe space for worship is an essential part of religious practice. A regular place of worship and contact with its members form an important support group especially for newcomers. To find your specific place of worship, you can:
- Ask from ethnocultural and faith based organizations
- Look around your neighbourhood or ask the community centre
- Ask from your nearest immigrant serving organization
- Look through the interactive directory of Christian churches in Winnipeg and South Eastern Manitoba: Shepherd’s Guide
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