The B.C. Supreme Court has dismissed the provincial government’s application for an injunction against three Fraser Valley churches that broke COVID-19 rules prohibiting in-person services.
The Riverside Calvary Chapel in Langley, the Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford, and the Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack were among a dozen individuals and churches that filed a petition last month, arguing the COVID-19 restrictions have violated parishioners’ rights and freedoms.
The petition is set to be heard in March, but B.C. Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Attorney General David Eby made the injunction request against the churches last week following the churches’ petition.
Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson of the B.C. Supreme Court, who turned down the request, said the provincial government had put the court in an “impossible position” by asking for an injunction before the churches’ petition is heard.
He said health orders already prohibit in-person religious services and Henry has the power to escalate enforcement.
During a hearing on Feb. 12, Hinkson told a lawyer with the Ministry for the Attorney General that there are other remedies to an injunction. He said the court is “rather ill equipped” to second-guess health decisions by those with the expertise to make them.
“I shouldn’t be doing Dr. Henry’s job. If she wants police to have the ability to arrest people, the order can be amended, can’t it?” he asked.
The provincial public health order still apples while the court hears the churches’ petition, Henry said during a news conference on Tuesday.
“They apply for the reasons that we put them in place based on the signs and the evidence when I believe there is risk of transmission and where we have seen transmission in these settings.”
She also said she doesn’t know if she has the authority to add enforcement measures to her public health orders.
“We’re not talking about arresting people. What we’re talking about in terms of detention was preventing people from entering a premises, for example, and so that is something that is under the Emergency Management Act part of the (health) orders.”
With files from The Canadian Press