standard waste bin sign with religious cross being discarded

Website author:
Darwin Bedford,
An Ambassador of Reason Email:


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a request for all levels of government to abstain from supporting religion



The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

December 18, 2020

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

Subject: The state cannot favour religious belief over non-belief

On April 15, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the state must abstain from favouring religious belief over non-belief. Here is how the CBC reported the ruling …

The Supreme Court said Canadian society has evolved and given rise to a "concept of neutrality according to which the state must not interfere in religion and beliefs."

"The state must instead remain neutral in this regard," the judgment said.

"This neutrality requires that the state neither favour nor hinder any particular belief, and the same holds true for non-belief. It requires that the state abstain from taking any position and thus avoid adhering to a particular belief.

"When all is said and done, the state's duty to protect every person's freedom of conscience and religion means that it may not use its powers in such a way as to promote the participation of certain believers or non-believers in public life to the detriment of others."

These are quotes from the ruling. Note that the ruling not only refers to neutrality of religion, but also positions of promotion regarding belief and non-belief. Note also that this ruling applies to all levels of government.

For your reference …

As it stands now with the Canada Revenue Agency’s laws and regulations, property tax exemptions and certain charitable tax exemptions are only awarded where there is “worship of a deity” involved. This is unfair and illegal now since the ruling.

It has been over five and a half years since this ruling and we have not seen anything come down the pike correcting this unfair situation of religious institutions receiving tax exemptions, but not non-belief organizations.

Will you assure me that you will either eliminate tax favouritism towards religious institutions, or exempt non-belief organizations, equally, regarding tax exemptions?

I would prefer eliminating tax favouritism towards religious institutions because that is a simple cancelation or deletion of tax exemptions. Deciding which non-belief organizations would additionally be entitled for the same tax exemptions may be a challenging effort.

To avoid a mess of court challenges, you may be wise to proactively eliminate other occurrences within Canadian governmental practice that favour religious institutions over non-belief organizations.

Yours sincerely,

D. Bedford,
Voters Without Religion Association

Lifetime Member of Humanist Canada,
Member of BC Humanist Association,
Member of Centre For Inquiry Canada,
Ambassador of Reason for Canadian atheists

Humanist Canada
251 Laurier Ave West, Suite 900
Ottawa, ON
Canada K1P 5J6

British Columbia Humanist Association
422 Richards St, Suite 170
Vancouver, BC V6B 2Z4

Centre For Inquiry Canada
PO Box 24006 Hazeldean RPO,
Ottawa, ON
K2M 2C3 Canada

Canadian atheists
National Headquarters
26208 - 8000 No. 3 Road
Richmond, British Columbia, Canada
V6Y 2E0



January 6, 2021

Office of the Prime Minister / Cabinet du premier ministre

To David Bedford
Cc Chrystia Freeland

Dear Mr. Bedford:

I would like to acknowledge receipt of your email sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Thank you for sharing your concerns with the Prime Minister. You may be assured that your comments have been carefully reviewed.

I have taken the liberty of forwarding your email to the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, so that she may be made aware of your concerns.

Once again, thank you for writing.

K. Bentsen
Executive Correspondence Officer
for the Prime Minister's Office
Agent de correspondance
de la haute direction
pour le Cabinet du premier ministre



January 21, 2021

MinFinance / FinanceMin (FIN)


Dear Mr. Bedford:

Thank you for your correspondence of December 18, 2020, which was referred by the Office of the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, regarding the removal of tax exemptions for religious organizations under the Income Tax Act (ITA) or the granting of similar privileges to "non-belief" organizations.

I would like to emphasize that religious organizations are not automatically tax-exempt. Under the ITA, to be exempt from income tax, such an organization must generally be either a Non Profit Organization (NPO) or a registered charity.

NPOs receive tax-exempt status in recognition of the important role they play in Canadian society, often filling a gap between the private and the public sector. To qualify, a non-profit organization must be organized, and operated exclusively, for social welfare, civic improvement, pleasure or any other purpose other than profit. Generally speaking, the activities of NPOs are expected to be directed toward shared community goals rather than individual gain. In this spirit, the ITA prohibits any part of the income of NPOs from being payable or otherwise available for the personal benefit of their proprietors, members, or shareholders. A wide variety of organizations are established as NPOs, including certain religious, quasi-religious and non religious societies, fraternal organizations, social clubs, professional societies and business associations.

Registered charities are also exempt from income tax. However, in recognition of the valuable services they provide to Canadians and to encourage public support for their activities, charities are also provided the benefit of being able to issue official donation receipts for any gifts they receive. Registered charities must also devote all of their resources to their charitable activities and are subject to certain restrictions, such as on the types of business activities they may carry out.

The ITA does not define the concept of charity; rather, it has been developed by court decisions and includes organizations that are established for the advancement of education or religion, the relief of poverty or certain other purposes that benefit the community in a way the courts have said is charitable. Although non-belief organizations do not qualify under the advancement of religion, they may qualify under one of the other categories (and I understand that several humanist associations are already registered as charities).

I would note that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is responsible for the administration of the ITA, including the registration of charities. In this regard, if you have concerns about the manner in which the CRA is interpreting or applying the law, you may wish to contact the CRA directly by writing to the Charities Directorate, Canada Revenue Agency, Ottawa ON K1A 0L5.

Finally, in your correspondence, you refer to property tax exemptions provided to religious organizations. However, property tax assessments and exemptions are generally provided at the municipal level, and are not the responsibility of the federal government.

Thank you for writing.


The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance