Supreme Court of Canada refuses to hear Ontario churches’ constitutional challenge to COVID restrictions – LifeSite

OTTAWA, Ontario (LifeSiteNews) — The Canadian Supreme Court has refused to hear two Ontario churches’ constitutional challenges to COVID-era restrictions. 

On August 10, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed a further appeal from the Aylmer Church of God and Trinity Bible Chapel who argued that the Ontario government violated their Charter-protected right to religious freedom through its COVID regulations.  

“The churches have challenged the gathering restrictions for violating the fundamental freedoms of conscience, religion, expression, peaceful assembly, and association, guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in a manner that could not demonstrably be justified in a free and democratic society,” the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms stated in a press release.  

“They argued that the harms caused by the gathering restrictions far outweighed any benefit they provided, and that they must be struck down,” the statement continued.  

On May 1, the two churches filed an application in the Supreme Court to appeal their previous constitutional challenge to Ontario’s gathering restrictions. The churches argued that the lower courts “failed to assess whether the gathering restrictions infringed on the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.” 

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The Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) failed spectacularly at resisting the initial COVID lockdowns and vaccine mandates that were imposed by the government on freedom-loving Canadians.

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Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice and Court of Appeal had previously upheld the COVID regulations restricting gatherings, including for religious services. Both churches held gatherings while the province remained under strict regulations.  

In December 2020, the Justice Centre represented Pastor Henry Hildebrandt of the Aylmer Church of God after he held drive-in services while the province was under the Reopening Ontario Act which restricted gatherings to as few as 10 people. 

Following the service, and three additional services held in May and June 2021, the Church of God was ordered to pay $274,000 in fines and costs for what police argued was a violation of the gathering limits in force at that time.  

According to the Justice Centre, the fines were issued despite evidence from Ontario Dr. Zain Chagla that the risk of outdoor transmission is negligible. 

Similarly, the Trinity Bible Chapel in Waterloo, its lead pastor Jacob Reaume, and other church members, have faced major fines for allegedly breaking COVID regulations.  

“When Ontario closed houses of worship in December 2020, the 10-person limit made no sense for Trinity Bible Chapel and its large 900-seat auditorium,” the Justice Centre argued.  

The Centre pointed out the hypocrisy of placing 10-person limits on worship services, while essential retail was permitted 50 percent capacity with “social distancing.”

Trinity Bible had its doors shut by Ontario Justice John Krawchenko on April 30 because it would not follow the local COVID rules in place at the time which banned in-person worship. The church has since been issued hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. 

“Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice and Court of Appeal have upheld these violations of freedom of conscience and religion, the first freedom protected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms., as well as violations of the freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly,” the Justice Centre declared.  

Unfortunately, the Ontario churches are not alone in having their cases dismissed by the Canadian Supreme Court. On the same day as the court dismissed the case of the Aylmer Church of God and Trinity Bible Chapel, it dismissed the appeal of three churches in British Columbia. 

The legal challenge, originally filed in 2021, sought to have British Columbia’s complete ban on in-person worship services refuted based on protected Charter rights.