Thursday, March 8, 2012

Presentation on Vegan Creeds to a Policy Conference

I have just been invited to present at a joint conference of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Osgoode Hall Law School on creed and rights. I will be arguing that vegans deserve to be acknowledged as observing a creed or religion for legal purposes. This is significant in contexts such as vegans being served appropriate meals in hospitals and prisons, or having the right not to participate in vivisection or dissection at educational institutions. I answered their call for proposals for papers, and developed my essay once they signalled that they wished me to do so. It is a victory for animals to have the ear of Ontario policy-makers on a significant animal-rights-related issue. It is also a human rights issue. Indeed, my analysis has implications for exclusively human rights claims in relation to religious freedom, such as whether Sikh boys should be allowed to wear kirpans or ceremonial knives to school.

Here we see animal rights/vegan discourse being taken seriously by law-makers and policy people. Ultimately, we want to produce an animal rights discourse that will one day become translated into law. My topic is the definition of creed. In Canada, "religion" or "creed" (synonymous in at 1996 Ontario Human Rights Commission policy document) is not defined in The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, nor in the Ontario Human Rights Code. It is a pivotal issue for deciding who gets protection under freedom of religion. I will be speaking alongside just a few others on this central issue (others will be covering other problems), and am very honoured by being granted this opportunity by the policy analysts at the Commission and others involved in this two-day conference. The purpose of the gathering is explicitly to generate discussion that will lead to reform and modernizing of Canadian policy on these issues.

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