On June 3-5, the Faith and Freedom Alliance Conference was held in Toronto, during which they educated the public about the threats to religious liberty and trained lawyers to fight back to protect certain freedoms from assault in the public square.

J. Scott Kennedy, chair of the Alliance, opened the conference reminding participants that the freedoms of religion, conscience, and expression “are among the most fundamental freedoms in a democratic society,” although they are under constant attack. He said the Faith and Freedom Alliance – a group that came together to formalize the cooperative work of the Catholic Civil Rights League, the Christian Legal Fellowship, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Focus on the Family Canada, and Real Women – exists to “ensure that the Christian faith can be advanced freely in our country.” The Alliance does this by educating the public, training Christian lawyers, and intervening in select court cases affecting religious liberty.

A key part of the conference is the Christian Legal Intervention Academy which trains law students and new lawyers to better defend freedom of religion, conscience and expression and this year featured sessions on legal interventions, pro bono commitments, legal strategies, and human rights cases. Speakers included Kennedy, Gwen Landolt of REAL Women, Don Hutchinson of the EFC, Phil Horgan of the CCRL, Jim Sclater of Focus on the Family, Sean Murphy of the Protection of Conscience Project, and John Carpay of the Canadian Constitutional Foundation, among others.

Horgan talked about recent legal interventions of the FFA and why they are important. He noted that third-party interventions have not always been valued by the courts but that recent studies have shown that they are indeed influenced by such interventions.

Hutchinson discussed the details and considerations of how organizations and lawyers become interveners. He said that strategic thinking is absolutely necessary before undertaking the costly exercise of intervening with a key question being “will the intervention assist the case.”

He also said that there are several reasons for intervening, namely to “assist the court in its philosophical and moral understanding of a case” and to “assist the court in its understanding of the social context.” He offered as examples of the former the Rodriguez (1993) and Latimer (2001) cases and of the latter the Sharpe (2001) and same-sex marriage reference (2004) cases. Hutchinson also noted that interveners can “provide ‘the other side’ when the parties are in agreement.” He said an example of that situation was the so-called three parents case in which an Ontario court had to consider whether a biological mother and father and the mother’s lesbian partner could all be legally declared the child’s parents.

Hutchinson also discussed non-legal interventions including assisting campus pro-life clubs.

The CCF’s John Carpay discussed his work with the pro-life club at the University of Calgary. He said that it helps pro-life clubs to have legal representation and said he yearned for “the day when every pro-life campus group has legal representation that is pro bono, comprehensive, and on-going.”

This was the Alliance’s fourth Christian Legal Intervention Academy Conference, with previous ones held in Banff in 2002, Ottawa in 2004 and Calgary in 2006. The Alliance provides the CLIAC training for free to lawyers and law students in exchange for a commitment of a certain number of pro bono hours given back to the Faith and Freedom Alliance.

On the Friday evening, author William Gairdner gave the keynote presentation after a reception and dinner at Bistro 990. He discussed freedom and said that there is a curious and seemingly contradictory pairing of positive freedoms (the government providing people with something) and negative freedom (being free of government restrictions on some activity).

Gairdner said that when it comes to many moral issues the state does not intervene, yet it provides welfare, education and healthcare for all. He called this combination of freedoms libertarian socialism and said all that separates the two spheres is “our skin” because people are free only when the act (abortion, euthanasia, homosexual acts, drug use, prostitution) has to do with the human body, with “our skin” separating ourselves and the state.