|The controversy raised by new religions, cults, sects, mind
development groups and deprogramming is complex and defies simplistic solutions, posing
instead questions that are basic to our democratic institutions. Few other issues are so
befogged by emotion. Few others are as bedevilled by how little still is known about the
human mind and its vulnerabilities. And few others bring so many fundamental principles of
our society into mutual conflict.
None of which is to say that the issue cannot or should not be addressed. It is to say, however, that the area is a virtual public policy minefield into which government must enter with great caution and restrain. A misstep, a hasty or unnecessary action, could inflict severe damage on principles and institutions vital to the maintenance of a democratic community. The challenge for government in such a situation is to determine when its intervention would be in society's interest and when it best serves society by taking no action at all. Walter Tarnopolsky, professor of law at the University of Ottawa and an authority on rights and freedoms in Canada, describes the distinction this way:
Carrying this kind of analysis further, Frank Scott, a former McGill University law professor and a noted civil libertarian, explains that "defense against the state and protection by the state are two correlative functions, not contradictory but complementary."
Still, the question remains: When is government action warranted and when is non-intervention appropriate? In its consideration of that question, the study was guided by the civil liberties traditions flowing from centuries of English common law and parliamentary democracy. It is upon that libertarian legacy that Canadians consider their society to have been founded. Summing up that legacy, Chief Justice Bora Laskin of the Supreme Court of Canada says:
None of these freedoms, however, is absolute. Liberty has its restrains. Accordingly, the Chief Justice continues:
Nor, insofar as the issue at hand is concerned, will freedom of religion or conscience excuse fraud, misrepresentation, physical coercion, assault, kidnapping, improper solicitation, or other such practices.