Challenge of B.C. health orders restricting church-goers in court March 1 | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Challenge of B.C. health orders restricting church-goers in court March 1

Harvest Ministries International is supporting a court challenge to COVID-19 rules against in person church services.
January 29, 2021 - 7:00 AM

The legality of stopping churches from holding in-person services, including at least one in Kelowna, will hit a Vancouver courtroom on March 1.

Kelowna’s Harvest Ministries International has been handed two $2,300 fines for holding in-person services and has joined the lawsuit, represented by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms out of Calgary.

READ MORE: Kelowna church hit with second $2,300 COVID-19 fine

The court challenge will be heard in Vancouver from March 1 to 3.

“The court has shown commendable efforts to expedite the hearing of this matter, which is of significant public effect and importance,” Justice Centre lawyer Marty Moore told iNFOnews.ca.

“When the constitutionality of an order is challenged, particularly an order of this nature that, for example, entirely prohibits gatherings for religious purposes across the province, in the context where there are gatherings that are permitted if you weren’t a religious group, there is good reason to address the constitutional issue.”

One of their key concerns is that in-person church services are not allowed even if there are fewer than 50 people attending, they all wear face masks and keep safe distances from each other.

At the same time, hundreds of people are allowed to gather in shopping malls and other activities, such as support groups, can be held in churches, the Justice Centre’s website states.

While Harvest is one of a dozen churches and individuals listed on the Justice Centre’s website as plaintiffs, only three Lower Mainland churches are actually named on the petition going to the court.

The Justice Centre is also challenging the prohibition against people organizing rallies.

David Lindsay, who has received two $2,300 fines for organizing an anti-COVID-restrictions weekly rallies in downtown Kelowna is not represented by the Justice Centre.

READ MORE; 'She's a liar,' Kelowna anti-COVID-19 restriction rally organizer takes aim at Dr. Bonnie Henry

The court action is by petition, which means it’s challenging the legality of government decisions, in this case Dr. Henry’s provincial health orders, but no monetary damages are being sought.

The three days set aside for the hearing, before Chief Justice Hinkson of the Supreme Court of B.C., could result in a ruling immediately or that could take weeks or months, Moore said.

While Harvest Ministries is the only Okanagan church on the posted Justice Centre list, Moore said there are other churches that are also holding in-person services. He would not name any of those.

A B.C. lawyer, Paul Jaffe, will actually be handling the case in B.C.

The Justice Centre is making a similar challenge in Manitoba. Part of that argument will be heard on Feb. 9 and 10 then eight days are set aside for a hearing starting April 19.

As for the tickets issued, Moore recommends the church files appeals and goes to court to fight them.

If they do nothing, ICBC will send them to collections after 30 days, according to an email sent to iNFOnews.ca by Emergency Management B.C. Normally reminder notices are sent for up to a year for unpaid fines before they go to collections.

ICBC has been empowered by the provincial government to collect fines issued to those who violate COVID-19 orders.

If the church goes to court and loses, it will have 30 days to pay before it goes to collections.

The courts can impose fines up to $10,000 or jail terms, up to one year for “egregious” offences, the Emergency Management email states.


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