Gail McCabe, the president of OHS, presented a paper to the Ontario Human Rights Commission “Community Dialogue” hearings in Toronto. We were pleased that  our paper, written by members of the OHS Ethical Action Committee, was selected from many submissions.

It has been 15 years since the OHRC issued their definition of creeds, which are protected under the OHCR rubric, and the current definition of creed says:

Creed does not include secular, moral or ethical beliefs or political convictions.[4] This policy does not extend to religions that incite hatred or violence against other individuals or groups,[5] or to practices and observances that purport to have a religious basis but which contravene international human rights standards or criminal law.[6]

The OHS submission (TOWARDS AN INCLUSIVE DEFINITION OF CREED) states in part:

The Cambridge University Press dictionary defines creed as “a set of beliefs which expresses a particular opinion and influences the way you live”.  It is a definition that makes no reference to religion at the same time that it refers to ‘a set of beliefs’ suggesting a substantial belief system akin to the beliefs of a religionWe see it as a starting point for reconsidering the interpretation of creed as expressed in the “Policy on creed and the accommodation of religious observances,”  (quoted above).

A more inclusive definition of creed encompassing communities of choice constituted on the basis of philosophical, moral or ethical beliefs would broaden the scope of the term to afford such communities the same protections as religious groups.  It goes without saying that the interpretation of creed would retain the requirement that a necessary aspect of creed is that the moral and philosophical beliefs and practices of the community of choice are “sincerely held and/or observed” in practice (Ibid).    And further to the OHRC interpretation, ‘Creed’ would be “defined subjectively” with personal philosophical, moral or ethical observances protected “even if they are not essential elements of the creed provided they are sincerely held” (Ibid).

Note: we feel the presentation was well received, and we hope it is a step to broadening the definition of ethical and philosophical beliefs as well as religious creeds in terms of human rights protections