Legal Status of Wicca & Paganism in Canada

By Richard James

In Canada, the legal status of Wicca and Paganism is varied.  Let me start with some comments on that status at a federal level.  There are a few ways in which the Government of Canada can “recognize” or “give status to” a religious denomination.

Correctional Services of Canada has recognized and thereby given status to Pagans within federal correctional facilities.  This is established policy.

The Canadian Ministry of Defense has given some leeway for Pagans to take time off to celebrate Pagan holidays, but to the best of my understanding this permission is given on a case-by-case basis by the commanding officer of each military base.  To the best of my knowledge, the Canadian military has no set policy regarding Pagan worship.

The Canada Collections and Revenue Agency (CCRA), formerly simply called Revenue Canada, has jurisdiction over what organizations may become charities.  A charity is an organization that may receive money, and issue a tax-deductible receipt.  There are no Pagan organizations in Canada that are also charities. 

In Canada, there are many functions of government that fall under the jurisdiction of the provinces. 

Each province has a different Act regarding marriage.  In each case, the province specifies which denominations may solemnize marriage, or which denominations may appoint a person who may solemnize marriage.  In Ontario only, the provincial government regulations say that only a denomination that is a charity under the CCRA may authorize people to solemnize marriage.

I wish to emphasize that the rules in your province or territory may differ, a lot.

Provinces also have Ministries of Corrections, which house anyone who has been arrested but not yet sentenced, and anyone who has been sentenced for a period of under two years.  The Ministry of Corrections in each province may or may not recognize and assist Pagan worship in provincial prisons.

Each province also has its own Ministry of Health.  In most cases, the ability of a Pagan clergyperson to visit a particular health facility is left to the chaplain or administration of that hospital or other institution.  There have not been enough cases to establish a trend.

Rights with regard to death are not at all well established in Canada.  The reason for this is that a majority of Pagans in Canada did not have Pagan grandparents, and so there is little established tradition.  When a person dies in Canada, it is best if that person has a will, and the executor must follow the terms of the will as well as possible.  Without a will, the estate (which includes the body of the deceased) is taken care of by the next of kin.  In many cases among Pagans, the next of kin are not also Pagans, and so the Pagan religious community has no say in the matter. 

If you are a lawyer, and you have found an error in this article, please send a note to us at to inform me of my mistake.

If you are anyone at all who has had experience with your provincial or federal government that could make this article more complete, please write to us at

This page last modified: Tue, Feb 11, 2014


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