Pandemic-related charges against Windsor Pastor Aaron Rock for allegedly breaching the Re-opening Ontario Act (ROA) were quietly dropped this past February.
Rock’s attorney, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) Litigator Chris Fleury, spoke to True North and said that the “positive outcome” of Rock’s lawsuit is not always consistent in similar cases.
“The way Mr. Rock’s case has played out does not set a precedent with how these types of charges are generally dealt with. The Trinity Bible Chapel case, which the JCCF was also representing, was in the Superior Court in the spring of 2022. We just got a decision from the Ontario Court of Appeal that came back negative. A lot of these cases are systemic challenges,” he said.
Under the ROA, the government banned religious gatherings greater than 10 people. Rock– the lead pastor at the Harvest Bible Church in Windsor– was alleged to have contravened this regulation.
As supposed admission of Rock’s guilt, the Crown presented a recording filmed outside of the Harvest Bible Church. Fleury noted that the video lacked concrete evidence to incriminate the Windsor pastor.
“There were no legal merits to the case itself because the camera footage does not even show Mr. Rock,” he said.
The prosecuting Crown Attorney withdrew the two charges levied against Rock for infringing the ten-person capacity limit on Feb. 6.
Rock faced another charge for speaking at a public gathering where he voiced concerns about Ontario’s COVID-19 response. The Crown withdrew the charge with no admission of guilt on Feb. 16 after Rock entered into a Diversion Agreement where, according to the JCCF press release, “he voluntarily made a modest charitable donation.”
Charges dropped against Rock serve for some as an emblem of optimism in face of the often harsh legislative response to pandemic-related cases.
“Speaking as a citizen of Ontario, it’s absolutely shocking to me to see the degree to which these charges were laid and how many of them continue into 2023,” said Fleury. “Though it’s encouraging that we are seeing positive outcomes.”