Alberta v. Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony

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Alberta v. Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony
Supreme Court of Canada
Hearing: October 7, 2008
Judgment: July 24, 2009
Full case name Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Alberta v. Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony and Hutterian Brethren Church of Wilson
Citations 2009 SCC 37, [2009] 2 S.C.R. 567
Docket No. 32186
Prior history Judgement for the Hutterian Brethren at the Alberta Court of Appeal
Ruling Appeal allowed.
Holding
Mandatory driver's license photographs violates the religious freedom guarantee of s. 2(a) the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but this infringement is saved under s. 1 due to the need to prevent identity fraud.
Court Membership
Chief Justice: Beverley McLachlin
Puisne Justices: Ian Binnie, Louis LeBel, Marie Deschamps, Morris Fish, Rosalie Abella, Louise Charron, Marshall Rothstein
Reasons given
Majority McLachlin C.J. (paras. 1 to 109), joined by Binnie, Deschamps and Rothstein JJ.
Dissent Abella J. (paras. 110 to 177)
Dissent Lebel J. (paras. 178 to 202)
Dissent Fish J. (para. 203)
Charron J. took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
Laws Applied
R. v. Oakes,


Alberta v. Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony is a freedom of religion decision by the Supreme Court of Canada. The court addressed whether a requirement that all licensed drivers be photographed unconstitutionally violated the Hutterites' right to freedom of religion.

Background[edit]

The Hutterites believe that they cannot consent to being photographed. Previously, an exception had been made from the photograph requirement by the Alberta government. However, the government now keeps the photographs in a large database to prevent identity theft, and ended the exemption. Alberta claimed that making a constitutional exception for the Hutterites would undermine its attempts to prevent such fraud.

The Alberta Court of Appeal found for the Hutterites.

Opinion of the Court[edit]

The government of Alberta conceded that this was a violation of the Hutterites' religious freedom (protected under Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) but argued that this violation was allowable under Section 1's "reasonable limits" on Charter rights. The Hutterites maintained that this was an unreasonable limit.

Chief Justice McLachlin, writing for the majority, found the law constitutional. She found that the government's need to fight fraud was pressing, and that driving was not a right, so the government was entitled to attach legitimate conditions to it.

Three justices dissented and would have not required the Hutterites to be photographed to be licensed. In three separate opinions, Justices Abella, LeBel, and Fish found that this policy was not minimally impairing, since it would not significantly enable identity theft to allow the exceptions, and it would have a large detrimental effect on the Hutterites' way of life, since they would have to employ outsiders to perform all their necessary driving.

External links[edit]