Calculations of Conscience: The Costs and Benefits of Religious and Conscientious Freedom


  • Howard Kislowicz
  • Richard Haigh
  • Adrienne Ng



This article examines the Supreme Court of Canada’s cost-benefit analysis of freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed by s. 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Alberta v. Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony. The article finds that while the Supreme Court’s reasoning was ultimately flawed, its use of cost-benefit analysis may be a positive development in the freedom of religion framework. The article also looks at the Court’s treatment of the freedom of conscience guarantee in relation to freedom of religion. The article suggests that this treatment may foreshadow a more uniform approach to the broader freedom of conscience and religion than was provided for in previous decisions.

Author Biographies

Howard Kislowicz

B.A., B.C.L., LL.B. (McGill); LL.M. (Toronto); currently pursuing his doctorate in law at the University of Toronto.

Richard Haigh

B.Sc. (Calgary); LL.B. (Dalhousie); LL.M. (Cambridge); Visiting Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School and formerly the Associate Director, Graduate Program at Osgoode Professional Development.

Adrienne Ng

B.A.Sc. (Toronto), J.D. Candidate, Osgoode Hall Law School, Class of 2011.The authors thank Gregory Senda, counsel for the Hutterites of Wilson Colony, who provided us with many of the documents submitted to the Supreme Court of Canada, and the anonymous reviewers who provided excellent and constructive feedback on an earlier draft of this article.