Church Covid Restriction Cases


Multiple Court Cases

Status:

In BC the Court upheld the restrictions. The BC Court of Appeal heard the appeal case in March 2022, including ARPA Canada’s submissions. We are now waiting for a decision, which could take up to a year.

In Manitoba the Court upheld the restrictions. The churches are appealing the lower court ruling and ARPA Canada is applying to intervene.

In Ontario the Court upheld the restrictions. In Ontario the churches are appealing the lower court ruling and ARPA Canada is applying to intervene. (You can read more about this case here)

Background: Churches across the country faced unprecedent restrictions on the ability to gather for corporate worship. The leadership of churches have grappled with how to respond, and some churches decided that appropriate response was to appeal to the judicial branch of our government to determine the constitutionality of the restrictions. ARPA Canada has had the privilege of intervening in three provinces: BC, Manitoba, and Ontario. While of each these cases are different in terms of what the restrictions were and what legal arguments the churches put forward, they all at their core were asking the courts to find the restrictions on gathered worship unconstitutional.

Our Argument: ARPA’s arguments in each of the provinces have been similar. Focusing on our most recent submission, ARPA Canada made three constitutional arguments:

  1. That Canada’s constitution and jurisprudence emphasize the existence of and legitimacy of authorities other than the civil government. For example, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed this institutional pluralism in a case called Reference re Secession of Quebec where they said our “constitution may seek to ensure that vulnerable minority groups are endowed with the institutions and rights necessary to maintain and promote their identities.” These institutions need protection and are owed deference in certain matters.
  2. That the court ought to weigh the cumulative impingement of the various fundamental freedoms at issue in this case – including freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association. It is these compound Charter violations that need to be justified by the government.
  3. Finally, part of the government’s duty to justify the impingement on Charter freedoms includes demonstrating that they chose measures from a range of reasonable alternatives. We argued that a range of reasonable alternatives may include percentage capacity limits. For example, a 25% and a 50% limit may both fall on the range of reasonable alternatives. But a total prohibition is something else entirely and fails this test.

You can read our previous written submissions in previous interventions here.

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