The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Toronto is calling for change as religious communities continue to be discriminated against by lockdowns, even as rules relax in Ontario.

In a letter sent to parishioners, Cardinal Thomas Collins said that Toronto and Peel Regions’ downgrade to Grey Zones on Monday unfairly benefits businesses while leaving churches shuttered.

“The province has relaxed restrictions in Grey (Lockdown) regions, with retailers permitted to operate at 25% capacity. Yet places of worship, regardless of whether they seat 100 or 1,000 people, must remain at a hard cap of 10 people,” his eminence wrote. 

“Next week, a funeral at St. Michael’s Cathedral (capacity 1,500) will be capped at 10 people, while around the corner dozens can enter the local liquor store and thousands will visit the Eaton Centre. This makes no sense.”

At 12:01 a.m. on Monday, the stay-at-home order will end for Toronto and Peel Regions. As Grey Zones, all retail stores will be allowed to open, with essential businesses having 50% capacity and non-essential businesses having 25% capacity.

The Archdiocese of Toronto recently launched a campaign calling for Ontario to end the arbitrary ten-person limit to religious services. The Archdiocese is asking the Ford government to engage with faith groups so they can show they are “operating safely and responsibly throughout the province.”

“I do not believe that our elected officials and medical officers of health consciously intend to suppress religious freedom; I realize that they are in an extremely difficult position. We do, however, ask to be treated equitably. In recent days, it is becoming more difficult to believe that is happening,” Cardinal Collins said.

Since the pandemic began, churches have struggled as governments in Canada have labelled religious institutions as non-essential and put strict rules on religious activities. In many places, lockdowns limit churches more than secular gatherings and businesses.

In November, the Archbishop of Vancouver publicly expressed disappointment that British Columbia enacted similarly arbitrary rules that shutter churches.

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