Judicial Committee of the Highwood Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses (Vaughn Lee - Chairman and Elders James Scott Lang and Joe Gurney) and Highwood Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses v. Randy Wall

(Alberta) (Civil) (By Leave)




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Charter of Rights and Freedoms – Religious freedom – Freedom of Association – Courts – Jurisdiction – Judicial review – How do the fundamental freedoms of religion and association protect membership decisions of religious communities and other voluntary associations from state and judicial interference – What are the boundaries between what is and is not justiciable with regard to membership and other disputes between members of voluntary associations – Whether the public law remedy of judicial review applies to membership decisions made by voluntary associations such as religious communities?

Mr. Wall was a member of the Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, an unincorporated religious association. He was disfellowshipped by a Judicial Committee of elders because he was not sufficiently repentant for two incidents of drunkenness, one of which included verbal abuse of his wife. This required Jehovah’s Witnesses, including his wife and children, to shun him. He is a real estate agent and lost congregation members and other Jehovah’s Witnesses as clients. He appealed to an Appeal Committee which upheld the disfellowship decision. The Watch Tower and Bible Tract Society of Canada decided not to overturn the decision. Mr. Wall applied for judicial review. Wilson J. conducted a hearing to determine whether the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta had jurisdiction to hear the application.

Lower Court Rulings

April 16, 2015
Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta

Declaration that Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta has jurisdiction to hear application for judicial review
September 8, 2016
Court of Appeal of Alberta (Calgary)

1501-0120-AC, 2016 ABCA 255
Appeal dismissed