Justice Centre successfully defends Ontario church against government attempt to lock its doors
WATERLOO: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms was in court today on behalf of Trinity Bible Chapel (Trinity), after the Attorney General went before a Justice for an urgent ruling that the church and its leaders were in contempt of court, and requested an order directing Sheriffs to immediately lock the church’s doors.
Trinity has already faced contempt proceedings, after it continued to hold religious services against an enforcement order obtained by the government on January 22. On February 23, Trinity and its leaders were ordered to pay fines and costs totalling $83,000.
That enforcement order is being challenged by the Justice Centre on constitutional grounds, and the matter is expected to be heard in July.
The government had requested this latest order following two Sundays in April, when the church allegedly held services over the 15% capacity limit. The Justice Centre argued that the original order appeared to be limited to banning services over a 10-person limit, which was not the same as 15% capacity. The court agreed. Since the request for an order to lock the church doors was based on there being a finding of contempt, and it was questionable as to whether a contempt finding could be made given the changing government regulations, the Justice ruled against Ontario. He noted that the government lawyers could have easily brought a motion without notice to Trinity to get a new order to keep up with changing restrictions, but it had failed to do so.
After a recess, Justice Paul Sweeny dismissed the Attorney General’s request to lock the church doors at this time. The matter was adjourned until May 11, to allow the Justice Centre time to cross-examine the government witnesses and file responding materials.
Immediately thereafter, the AG’s lawyers requested a new order, without notice, that Trinity be obliged to follow all restrictions in force for services, now and in future, failing which it could again be cited in contempt. That order was granted.
The Justice Centre will immediately file a constitutional challenge against the new order, and will argue that the restrictions are unconstitutional, and that the Ford government has failed to meet the requirements for a declaration of emergency under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, and its backdoor emergency continuation, the Reopening Ontario Act.
“Ontario has failed to consider and balance the harms that flow from lockdown measures and restrictions on civil liberties, including the right for healthy people to attend worship services,” says Justice Centre Staff Lawyer Lisa Bildy, who represents Trinity. “It has ignored evidence that asymptomatic spread of Covid – the reason for all of these restrictions – has been proven through a meta-analysis of 54 studies to be virtually nil, and many other studies confirming that lockdowns do more harm than good.”
Ontario’s former Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Richard Schabas, who served as Chief of Staff at York Central hospital during the 2003 SARS crisis, has also spoken out against lockdowns stating:, “Lockdown was never part of our planned pandemic response nor is it supported by strong science. Two recent studies on the effectiveness of lockdown show that it has, at most, a small COVID mortality benefit compared to more moderate measures. Both studies warned about the excessive cost of lockdowns.”
Dr. Schabas will be providing his expert opinion in the Justice Centre constitutional challenge on behalf of Trinity.