Religious exemption

Union members can ask the Labour Relations Board to make an order that says they do not have to join or pay dues to a union because it is against their religious beliefs. This order is called a religious exemption. To ask for an order for a religious exemption, union members must make an application to the Board.

Does the religious exemption apply to me?

The religious exemption applies only if being a union member is against your genuinely held religious beliefs. The exemption doesn't apply if you are opposed to joining or remaining a member of a union because of your social, political, moral, ethical, or philosophical beliefs.

Your objection must be to all unions, and not only to joining or remaining a member of a specific union. For example, the religious exemption under the Labour Relations Code (the Code) doesn't apply if you are opposed to joining or remaining a member of a specific union because that union is supporting or doing something against your religious or other beliefs.

How do I apply for a religious exemption?

To apply for a religious exemption:

  1. Talk to the union to see if the union will agree to an exemption
  2. Get information, such as a letter from your religious leader, which confirms that becoming or remaining a member of a union generally is against your religious beliefs
  3. Complete Form 17: Application for Religious Exemption
  4. Submit the application by email, mail, or courier
  5. Send a copy of the application and supporting information to your employer and union
  6. Arrange to pay the filing fee

Filing by email? The Board only accepts supporting information in PDF, MP3, or MP4 format. Supporting information cannot be provided by a file-share link at this time.

What happens if the Board grants me a religious exemption?

If the Board grants you a religious exemption, you won't be required to pay union dues, initiation fees, or assessments. Instead, you or your employer must pay those amounts to a charity registered in Canada under Part 1 of the Income Tax Act.

You will still be covered by the union's collective agreement and entitled to union representation. 

You won't be entitled to vote on internal union matters (such as votes on whether to accept a new collective agreement) or participate in votes held under the Code (such as strike votes). You will also not be entitled to any union benefits or plans available that are not required under the Code or the collective agreement.

Leading decisions:

Leading decisions provide useful information on how the Labour Relations Board applies the Labour Relations Code (the Code) and information on what is or is not covered by the Code.


This page was last updated: 2023-05-03

Disclaimer: The information on this website is provided for general purposes only and is not legal advice. This information is subject to the Labour Relations Code, the Labour Relations Board Rules, the Labour Relations Regulation and the published decisions of the Board

The Labour Relations Board acknowledges the territories of the many diverse Indigenous Peoples in the geographic area we serve. With gratitude and respect, we acknowledge that the Board’s office is located on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səlil̓wətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.