The British Columbia Court of Appeal has upheld the public health authority’s decision to impose strict bans on in-person worship at three churches between Nov. 2020 and May 2021.
In a ruling published on Friday, Justice Lance Fitch dismissed concerns brought forward by complainants from Riverside Calvary Chapel, Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church and the Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack.
“The appeal is dismissed as moot as the prohibition on outdoor protests is no longer in effect and the violation tickets issued to him have been stayed,” wrote Fitch.
“The ban on in-person gatherings for religious worship fell within a range of reasonable outcomes and proportionately balanced the appellants’ freedoms with the attainment of critically important public health objectives.”
In a statement released by the Justice Centre of Constitutional Freedoms – whose lawyers represented the complainants – the organization said it was disappointed with the decision.
Earlier this year, BC Crown prosecutors dropped a host of charges against three pastors pertaining to defiance of lockdown orders.
In total, 24 tickets were relinquished worth $55,200 in fines – including against a pastor with the Free Reformed Church.
“All levels of government, including politicians, health officials and law enforcement, have the duty to respect the constitutional rights and freedoms of Canadians,” said JCCF lawyer Marty Moore at the time.
“In response to Covid, there has been a serious failure of government officials and authorities in BC to respect the Charter freedoms of BC residents.”
A July ruling from the Alberta Court of Appeal also vindicated Pastor Artur Pawlowski, who was arrested and jailed for breaching pandemic health measures.
The court ruled that Pawlowski’s arrest and fines, among other things, were all illegal and ordered the Alberta Health Services to reimburse the pastor for his legal fees as well as to return any penalties and fines paid by Pawlowski.