Human Rights Office

Queen's University
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Human Rights Office
Human Rights Office
Members of the Wilson Colony of the Hutterian Brethren were issued special non-photo licenses up until 2003. In 2003 the province of Alberta adopted a new regulation and made the photo requirement universal. Members of the Wilson Colony of the Hutterian Brethren objected to this new requirement citing that it infringed upon their religious freedom, guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Wilson Colony of the Hutterian Brethren believe that the Second Commandment prohibits them from willingly having their photo taken. In this case, it was argued that the universal photo requirement was implemented in an effort to reduce identity theft associated with driver’s licenses.  It was found that the universal photo regulation was a reasonable limit on religious freedom, demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

Question(s) to be Determined:

  1. Is the universal photo requirement, on Alberta driver’s licenses, a reasonably justifiable limit on the Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony’s s. 2(a) Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, religious freedom?

Findings:

  1. Is the universal photo requirement, on Alberta driver’s licenses, a reasonably justifiable limit on the Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony’s s. 2(a) Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, religious freedom?

YES

Reasoning:

In this case, three main reasons were provided explaining why the universal photo requirement on Alberta driver’s licenses was a reasonably justifiable limit, under s. 1 of the Charter, on the Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony’s religious freedom.

  1. The regulation satisfies the proportionality test. “First, the universal photo requirement is rationally connected to the objective. The Province’s evidence demonstrates that the existence of an exemption from the photo requirement would materially increase the vulnerability of the licensing system and the risk of identity-related fraud.”
  2. Second the universal photo requirement for all licensed drivers minimally impairs the s. 2(a) right. “The impugned measure is reasonably tailored to address the problem of identity theft associ­ated with driver’s licences. The evidence discloses no alternative measures which would substantially satisfy the government’s objective while allowing the claim­ants to avoid being photographed.”
  3. Third, the negative impact on the freedom of religion of Colony members who wish to obtain licenses does not outweigh the benefits associated with the universal photo requirement. “The most important of these benefits is the enhancement of the security or integrity of the driver’s licensing scheme. It is clear that a photo exemption would have a tangible impact on the integ­rity of the licensing system because it would undermine the one-to-one and one-to-many photo comparisons used to verify identity…. It is impossible to conclude that Colony members have been deprived of a meaningful choice to follow or not to follow the edicts of their religion. When the deleterious effects are balanced against the salutary effects of the impugned regulation, the impact of the limit on religious practice associated with the universal photo requirement is proportionate.”