An appeal has been filed in a British Columbia Supreme Court decision that upheld public health orders banning indoor religious services in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

An appeal has been filed in a British Columbia Supreme Court decision that upheld public health orders banning indoor religious services in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. churches to appeal court decision that upheld COVID-19 restrictions

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms announced Thursday it is asking for a higher court to review the decision

An appeal has been filed in a British Columbia Supreme Court decision that upheld public health orders banning indoor religious services in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the province.

A statement from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which represents a group including three Fraser Valley churches, announced Thursday that it was asking for a higher court to review the decision.

Paul Jaffe, a lawyer with the advocacy group, argued during hearings last month that the orders by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry unjustifiably infringed on his clients’ right to freedom of religion.

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson found the orders were justified and the question before the court wasn’t whether Henry struck the right balance on the infringement, but whether she acted reasonably given the information available to her.

No one from the Attorney General’s Ministry was immediately available for comment on the notice of appeal.

Justice Centre lawyer Marty Moore says in a statement the judge decided to “set aside the constitutional scrutiny” that applies to such laws “in favour of extreme judicial deference to an unelected bureaucrat.”

“A declared public health crisis does not permit courts to neglect their constitutional obligation to ensure that government actions respect the charter rights of citizens,” he says.

The notice of appeal dated March 31 seeks an order quashing Hinkson’s judgment and granting the original relief sought by the petitioners, along with costs.

Henry made changes to her rules for houses of worship last week that would have allowed for services of up to 50 people in indoor settings, but reversed that decision this week as COVID-19 cases reached a new peak.

Her orders now allow outdoor services under certain rules and restrictions.

Jaffe has said the petitioners, which include the Riverside Calvary Chapel in Langley, Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford and the Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack, had been careful to adopt safety protocols similar to those approved by Henry in places that remained open.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Trail Smoke Eaters fell 6-1 to the Penticton Vees on Sunday, their third loss to the perennial BCHL powerhouse six games into the 20-game season. Photo: Stephen Piccolo
Penticton Vees dominant in win over Trail Smoke Eaters

Trail Smoke Eaters enjoy two day break until their fourth meeting with Penticton Vees on Wednesday

Kalesnikoff Lumber will be providing materials for a 21-storey apartment building in Vancouver. Rendering: Henriquez Partners Architects
Kalesnikoff supplying mass timber for several major projects

The West Kootenay lumber company will be making the products at South Slocan facility

This painting is a piece from Young Visions 2021, opening April 22 at the Kootenay Gallery. Photo: S. Painter
Showcase of artwork by Kootenay Columbia students opens April 22

Young Visions 2021 runs April 22 to May 29 in the Kootenay Gallery of Art, Castlegar

Selkirk College has received provincial funding to assist students. File photo
Selkirk College receives funding to assist students

Provincial funding is available to West Kootenay students

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says that includes attempts to steal Canadian research on COVID-19 and vaccines, and sow misinformation. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Intelligence committee warns China, Russia targeting Canadian COVID-19 research

Committee also found that the terrorist threat to Canada has shifted since its last such assessment

Part of the massive mess left behind in a Spallumcheen rental home owned by Wes Burden, whose tenants bolted from the property in the middle of the night. Burden is now facing a hefty cleaning and repair bill as a result. (Photo submitted)
Tenants disappear in the night leaving Okanagan home trashed with junk, feces

Spallumcheen rental rooms filled with junk, human and animal feces; landlord scared to rent again

Parliament Hill is viewed below a Canada flag in Gatineau, Quebec, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians are feeling more grateful for what they have in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

2019 report shows Canada emitted about one million tonnes more of these gases than the previous year

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to register people ages 40+ for COVID-19 vaccines in April

Appointments are currently being booked for people ages 66 and up

Most Read