Just the facts: Veganism and human rights

Just the facts: Veganism and human rights

Vegan Society of Canada News
August 22nd 2018

We wanted to discuss the status of human rights legislation as it pertains to veganism in Canada. With regards to federal regulations the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in section 2A states

Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: freedom of conscience and religion;

We certainly believe that this freedom of conscience covers those who follow the philosophy of veganism and the current case law agrees with this as shown in Maurice v. Canada. In this case the court found that

[8] Thus, while the CSC has recognized its legal duty to facilitate the religious freedoms outlined in the Charter, freedom of conscience has effectively been ignored. Section 2(a) of the Charter affords the fundamental freedom of both religion and conscience, yet by the CSC's policy, inmates with conscientiously held beliefs may be denied expression of their "conscience". In my opinion the CSC's approach is inconsistent. The CSC cannot incorporate s.2(a) of the Charter in a piecemeal manner; both freedoms are to be recognized.

[9] Vegetarianism is a dietary choice, which is founded in a belief that consumption of animal products is morally wrong. Motivation for practising vegetarianism may vary, but, in my opinion, its underlying belief system may fall under an expression of "conscience".

Therefore to us veganism is supported under the charter. In addition, this is the federal case which applies to all Canadians. However, it is important to note that the charter only applies to various level of governments like federal, provincial, territorial and not private entities. Before "Maurice v. Canada" it was thought that most of the protection applied to religious practice and believes and not to veganism. Various province like Ontario Humans Right Commission changed their policies to make it clear that non religious practices are also covered. They even touched on the topic of veganism here.

As we have said in the past, we and clearly the Federal Court, believe that veganism is protected by Canadian human rights law and you are not only entitled to basic respect from colleagues, bosses and peers but also not to be forced to eat meat, dairy and eggs in public institutions. This is not to speak of broader frameworks like Ontario’s Humans Rights Commission. If your rights have been infriged upon we suggest the following steps

  • Discuss with the entity you are having a problem with, refer to the proper legislation and let them know you want to work together so your rights are respected
  • If the above fail, file a complaint or seek legal representation.
  • Contact us to either discuss some options or make us aware of your case so we can inform others as appropriate.
  • Link with local communities, some of the above steps might take time before they produce a concrete result. In the very short term we are certain local communities would be glad to help out. For example, by bringing you vegan meals while at the hospital.

While the regulations seem clear, we do know that people are still having problems with these issues. It is time to avail ourselves of various rights and freedoms offered to us under existing legislation.