Per McLachlin C.J. and Iacobucci, Major, Arbour and Fish JJ.: Defined broadly, religion typically involves a particular and comprehensive system of faith and worship. In essence, religion is about freely and deeply held personal convictions or beliefs connected to an individual's spiritual faith and integrally linked to his or her self-definition and spiritual fulfilment, the practices of which allow individuals to foster a connection with the divine or with the subject or object of that spiritual faith.
Freedom of religion under the Quebec (and the Canadian) Charter consists of the freedom to undertake practices and harbour beliefs, having a nexus with religion, in which an individual demonstrates he or she sincerely believes or is sincerely undertaking in order to connect with the divine or as a function of his or her spiritual faith, irrespective of whether a particular practice or belief is required by official religious dogma or is in conformity with the position of religious officials. This understanding is consistent with a personal or subjective understanding of freedom of religion. As such, a claimant need not show some sort of objective religious obligation, requirement or precept to invoke freedom of religion. It is the religious or spiritual essence of an action, not any mandatory or perceived-as-mandatory nature of its observance, that attracts protection. The State is in no position to be, nor should it become, the arbiter of religious dogma. Although a court is not qualified to judicially interpret and determine the content of a subjective understanding of a religious requirement, it is qualified to inquire into the sincerity of a claimant's belief, where sincerity is in fact at issue. Sincerity of belief simply implies an honesty of belief and the court's role is to ensure that a presently asserted belief is in good faith, neither fictitious nor capricious, and that it is not an artifice. Assessment of sincerity is a question of fact that can be based on criteria including the credibility of a claimant's testimony, as well as an analysis of whether the alleged belief is consistent with his or her other current religious practices. Since the focus of the inquiry is not on what others view the claimant's religious obligations as being, but what the claimant views these personal religious "obligations" to be, it is inappropriate to require expert opinions. A court's inquiry into sincerity should focus on a person's belief at the time of the alleged interference with his or her religious freedom. It is inappropriate for courts rigorously to study and focus on the past practices of claimants in order to determine whether their current beliefs are sincerely held. Because of the vacillating nature of religious belief, a court's inquiry into sincerity, if anything, should focus not on past practice or past belief but on a person's belief at the time of the alleged interference with his or her religious freedom.
Freedom of religion is triggered when a claimant demonstrates that he or she sincerely believes in a practice or belief that has a nexus with religion. Once religious freedom is triggered, a court must then ascertain whether there has been non trivial or non-insubstantial interference with the exercise of the implicated right so as to constitute an infringement of freedom of religion under the Quebec (or the Canadian) Charter. However, even if the claimant successfully demonstrates non-trivial interference, religious conduct which would potentially cause harm to or interference with the rights of others would not automatically be protected. The ultimate protection of any particular Charter right must be measured in relation to other rights and with a view to the underlying context in which the apparent conflict arises.