Jan. 10, 2022

Research explores interplay between the oppression remedy and freedom of religion

Professor Howard Kislowciz has teamed up with a professor from UAlberta to explore how the oppression remedy can be applied to religious groups.
Professor Howard Kislowciz

Professor Howard Kislowicz has teamed up with Professor Anna Lund of the University of Alberta to explore the interplay between the oppression remedy and freedom of religion. The oppression remedy is meant to give a way for minority shareholders and stakeholders to have a remedy over behaviour that treats someone unfairly even if it is technically valid. 

“An example might be when a minority shareholder is treated aggressively and other shareholders get together to do something to devalue the shares,” explains Kislowicz.  

But how could the oppression remedy be applied to religious groups, which are typically not-for-profit? 

“The oppression remedy has been incorporated into some of the statutes under which groups organize. With religious organizations, it typically comes in to play when there is a dispute about membership or the direction of the organization,” he says. 

He and Lund are exploring ways that courts could apply the oppression remedy in the context of religious organizations. The oppression remedy has not been used often in these contexts, so the team is thinking through how it interfaces with constitutional values.  

“The courts have said that they answer secular questions, but not religious ones, which can be problematic when it comes to membership in a religious group. When people are expelled or refused membership, the oppression remedy could be put into play, but there can also be religious questions involved. A real potential challenge is where other constitutional values – like fairness or equality – are in tension with the religious rules.”