Source: Wikipedia

The Supreme Court of Canada said it will not hear an appeal challenging Manitoba’s lockdown restrictions filed by several churches.

Applicants in the appeal argued that the public health orders in 2020 and 2021 violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by not allowing citizens to attend in-person religious services. 

“Our clients are disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear their appeal,” said Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms lawyer Allison Pejovic.

The JCCF is a legal advocacy group based in Calgary that works to help protect Canadians’ constitutional rights and freedoms.  

“It was past time to have a conversation with Canada’s highest court about whether Charter-protected rights such as rights to worship and assemble ought to be prioritized over economic interests, such as ensuring that the Winnipeg Jets could practice indoors and that movie productions could continue,” said Pejovic. 

After losing their argument in two lower courts, the applicants filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, which did not provide any details as to why it decided not to hear the case. 

However, the decision did say that the government’s public health officials should not be “second guessed.”

In its Application for Leave to Appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, JCCF lawyers asked if “reliance on the “precautionary principle” satisfies the state’s onus under Charter section 1 to provide “cogent and persuasive” evidence to justify Charter-infringing measures?”

According to the decision, the government doesn’t have to meet a high threshold of providing persuasive evidence in justifying violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms if deemed reasonable. 

The JCCF said that they are disappointed by the high court’s decision to not hear their appeal in a statement released on Thursday.  

“The applicants’ legal team believed the case was critically important, as it could have served as guidance for governments in crafting public health measures,” reads the release.

“The Leave to Appeal application, under the name Gateway Bible Baptist Church et al. v. Manitoba et al., was filed on September 18, 2023. Five Manitoba churches, a pastor and a deacon asked the Supreme Court of Canada to hear their appeal of the lower courts’ dismissal of their constitutional challenge to closures of churches and restrictions on outdoor gatherings during Covid lockdowns in late 2020 and 2021,” it continued.

The JCCF statement noted that while Manitoba’s government chose to close down churches at a time when many other businesses were permitted to continue operating in-person like taxis, university classes, film and TV productions and law offices. 

“The Winnipeg Jets could meet and train indoors with their extended crew, and summer Olympic competitors were allowed to train indoors,” reads the statement. “Outdoor gatherings were reduced to no more than five people, while at the same time hundreds of people could legally gather indoors at big box stores.”

The case was first brought before the Manitoba Court of King’s Bench in May 2021, after the province was unable to provide any evidence that the COVID-19 virus spread outdoors, nor that outdoor gatherings posed a risk to the public.

During the hearing, Chief Microbiologist and Laboratory Specialist Dr. Jared Bullard, admitted that 56% of positive Covid cases were not infectious while under questioning from JCCF lawyers. 

Stanford Professor, epidemiologist Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, co-author of The Great Barrington Declaration also testified in the initial case. Bhattacharya is now among the litigants in the Missouri v. Biden lawsuit against the U.S. federal government over medical censorship that famously became public as part of the Twitter Files Investigation. 

The applicants in the appeal were not ordered to pay court costs by the Manitoba Court of King’s Bench because it found there to be “significant public interest in having this case adjudicated.”

However, the JCCF legal team believed the case to be one of critical importance, as it could have served as “guidance for governments in crafting public health measures on efforts needed to accommodate Charter-protected rights and freedoms.”