The following information applies ONLY to the province of Alberta, Canada. This information is provided solely as a starting point for your research. It will be different in other jurisdictions and it is your responsbility to research the current laws and regulations in your area.
We are not lawyers and are not dispensing legal advice. While we believe that this information is true at the time this page was written, we have no control over changes to laws or regulations, nor are we liable for any inaccuracies or broken links.
Legal Recognition of Wicca and its Clergy
Legal recognition is a complex issue because it depends on what one means by legal recognition.
Wicca, as a religion, is no more and no less legally recognised than any other religion in Alberta. It has no special privileges and no special restrictions.
Federally, Wicca (along with every other religion) is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Registered clergy (those registered in their province to perform weddings) may sign passport applications as a guarantor.
COGCOA was incoporated in 1992 under the Religious Societies Land Act. At that point the church was "legally recognised" in the sense that it exists as a coporate entity.
The charitable status of any organisation is controlled by Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. The Covenant does not have charitable status at this time.
The ability to register clergy to perform weddings is controlled by Vital Statistics and is also a separate matter. In Alberta it requires that the church be around for five years, have 100 members and a ton of paperwork. Our understanding is that in Alberta it is not possible for a solitary person to become registered to perform religious weddings. Secular weddings may be solemnised by a marriage commissioner but there have been changes to those regulations lately. In particular the one day temporary license to perform a wedding has now disappeared.
Other rights of passage (funerals, wiccaning of infants, coming-of-age rituals, handpartings etc.) are completely unregulated, have no legal status and may be performed by anyone at all. Note that handpartings in particular have no legal status and do not constitute any kind of legal divorce.
Some people see these regulations as aimed directly at minority religions such as ours. In fact they are a result of the situations in places such as California, where anyone can start a church in his basement and gain tax exempt status. They are also a result of the early history of Alberta in which non-traditional religious groups came in and bought large tracts of land.
We don't know what the current laws and regulations are concerning clergy ordained in a church which is incorporated outside of Alberta. If you choose to be ordained by someone outside of Alberta you will have to find out if it is recognised in Alberta and if there are any negative repercussions. Note that the definitive reply will come from an Alberta or Federal government department, not the church itself.
The bottom line is that, apart from the ability to perform legal weddings, being "legally recognised clergy" gives one no particular rights whatsoever. Any privilege given to clergy by the outside world (respect, priority seating, etc.) is at the sole discretion of the person giving one that privilege. It is not a right and is not protected by any law or regulation.
If you wish to pursue ordination by COGCOA you can find out more. In terms of time, work and cost our current cirriculum is approximately equivalent to a university degree.
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