Guibord case

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Brown v. Les Curé et Marguilliers de l'oeuvre et de la Fabrique de la Paroisse de Montréal, better known as the Guibord case, was a famous decision in 1874 by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (J.C.P.C.) in an early Canadian legal dispute over the relationship between church and state. The controversial decision by the British lords led to Quebec finally accepting the creation of a Canadian appeal court, the Supreme Court of Canada as the case demonstrated to them that the J.C.P.C. would not always be sensitive to Quebec's religious culture.

Background

The case centred on a man named Joseph Guibord, a member of the Institut Canadien, a liberal association that strove to limit the Catholic Church's influence over the Quebec government, which was at that time significant. Hence, when Guibord died, the Church opted not to give him a religious burial. The Church’s decision allegedly contradicted its role under the civil law to give burial, but the Church argued it would carry out the burial anyway and that Guibord not being buried in holy ground was a question of religious freedom.

Decision

As Professor Rainer Knopff argues, the J.C.P.C. compromised between two decisions of the lower courts: that the religious freedom argument was frivolous on one hand; or that the courts, not being a Catholic leadership, could not rule on whether a burial should be carried out in accordance with religious procedure on the other. The J.C.P.C., conversely, concluded that...
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