SCC: Voluntary Association Membership Not Automatically Contractual 
May 2021 Charity & NFP Law Update
Published on May 27, 2021

By Jacqueline M. Demczur, Esther S.J. Oh and Sean S. Carter

   
 

In a long-anticipated decision concerning the expulsion of five former members of a Toronto church, the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) unanimously affirmed previous case law, stating that a court’s jurisdiction to intervene in the affairs of a voluntary association depends on the issues and particular facts of a case. With respect to membership in a voluntary association, the SCC confirmed that legal or contractual rights do not arise simply on the basis of membership in an organization that has a by-law, constitution or other rules that apply to members. The SCC also confirmed that natural justice, itself, does not give rise to legal rights in this situation and, as a result, the ability of a court to review membership decisions in voluntary associations is subject to an analysis of the facts.

The SCC’s judgment in Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Canada St. Mary Cathedral v Aga, released on May 21, 2021, considered a dispute concerning the expulsion of five former members of the congregation of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Canada St. Mary Cathedral by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Canada St. Mary Cathedral and various church leaders.

For the balance of this Bulletin, please see Charity & NFP Law Bulletin No. 494.

   
 

Read the May 2021 Charity & NFP Law Update