Can church members have contractual rights? Aga v Ethiopian Orthodox Church of Canada

The issue before the Court of Appeal for Ontario in the recent case of Aga v Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Canada 2020 ONCA 10 (CanLII) was whether or not membership of a church congregation conferred legally-enforceable contractual rights on the congregation’s members.


The five appellants, former members of the Congregation of St Mary Cathedral of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Canada – an entity incorporated under Ontario’s Corporations Act, R.S.O. 1990 – had been expelled from the Congregation. They claimed that they had been given no particulars of the allegations against them leading to their expulsion nor any opportunity to respond to them or to make representations and that their expulsion had been in breach of the rules governing the Congregation [2 & 3]. They also claimed that the Church had failed to follow its own internal procedures in deciding to expel them from the Congregation, in violation of their rights to natural justice and to freedom to practise their religion as set out in s.2(a) of the Charter of Rights in the Constitution Act 1982 [3]. Continue reading