Three B.C. churches will be facing off against the province in court Friday over COVID-19 rules.
Dr. Bonnie Henry and Attorney General David Eby are seeking an injunction to prevent Langley’s Riverside Calvary Chapel, Abbotsford’s Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church and the Free Reformed Church in Chilliwack from holding in-person services. If granted, police could detain anyone who attends a service.
The application in B.C. Supreme Court comes after the churches filed a petition challenging the province’s prohibition on the services, arguing the ban violates people’s rights and freedoms.
“We’re very confident that all of the actions that Dr. Henry has taken are consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but the matter is before the courts and it will be decided there,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said.
“I think our job and Dr. Henry’s job is to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in British Columbia and so we support those efforts.”
Lawyer Marty Moore with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, a Calgary-based advocacy group, representing the churches, says his clients have been conducting services safely for months and worshippers question why religious services are banned, but dining in restaurants and bars is considered safe.
“I think the order being sought is overbroad and is an excessive escalation of this issue,” Moore said.
“Our clients are responsibly exercising their charter freedoms, and the government has not provided evidence that shows that our client’s responsible behaviour is the source of any COVID transmission.”
Moore says his clients have already received thousands in fines, which will be dealt with in court.
While he acknowledges the government’s position that charter rights are not absolute, Moore contends the province has not justified the infringement.
— With files from The Canadian Press