The Canadian Council of Christian Charities is joining with the Christian Legal Fellowship (CLF) and the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) in applying for leave to intervene in the Aga case.[1]

The case began when five members of St. Mary’s Cathedral were expelled over an investigation into alleged heresy within the church. The members applied to a civil court to adjudicate their dispute with the bishop. In the court of first instance, the judge decided the case was “not justiciable” – that is, there was no civil right or contract that would authorize a court to interfere. However, on appeal, the Ontario Court of Appeal (ONCA) held the opposite view. Based on the existence of a written constitution/by-laws and financial contributions in the form of tithes, the court found there was a contract between the church and the expelled members.

The ONCA’s decision calls into question the Supreme Court of Canada’ (SCC) 2018 ruling in the Wall case,[2] which concluded that civil courts do not have jurisdiction over private, theological matters such as church membership. It therefore creates confusion in the law and could undermine both the autonomy of religious communities and the duty of state neutrality.

The Aga decision is now being appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC). Given the significant implications for religious communities and voluntary associations across Canada, CCCC, ARPA and CLF are working together to urge the SCC to review the case in order to restore clarity in the law.

The application is part of CCCC’s continued advocacy on behalf of our members and the wider charitable sector. We are committed to ensuring a favourable environment for charities to operate in accordance with their faith.

You may access the coalition’s application materials here.

Support the Legal Defence Fund here.

The SCC will soon decide whether to hear the Aga appeal. We will continue to update you as matters unfold.

[1] Aga v. Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Canada, 2020 ONCA 10 (CanLII), <>,  retrieved on 2020-03-11.

[2] Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Judicial Committee) v. Wall, 2018 SCC 26 (CanLII), [2018] 1 SCR 750, <>, retrieved on 2020-03-12.

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