The organizer of an anti-mask protest and evangelical church pastors want a judge to overturn Dr. Bonnie Henry’s public health orders on constitutional grounds.
The Justice Centre for Canadian Freedoms-backed petition to B.C. Supreme Court seeks a two-day hearing where the petitioners will argue Henry’s orders banning or unduly restricting gatherings and events breach three sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that protect freedom of peaceful assembly, thought and religion; life, liberty and pursuit of happiness; and equality.
The Alberta-based JCCF published a copy of the Jan. 7 petition with the plaintiffs’ names censored. It is unclear whether it received approval from a judge to redact the names. The lawsuit aims for eight violation tickets to be cancelled.
One petitioner is described as “a patriotic Canadian” who is the offspring of Canadian Armed Forced members. The court filing says that he organized public protests against what he believes to be an abuse of government power in the present COVID-19 pandemic by imposing unnecessary and draconian restrictions in the name of safety.
Other petitioners are pastors of an evangelical church. One claimed that he stopped in-person worship services during the first wave of the pandemic, but negative effects followed, including “extreme loneliness, depression, anxiety sense of not belonging.” Some parishioners could not access the online worship sessions.
Another petitioner took issue with Walmart and Best Buy being open for hundreds of people at a time every day of the week, while his church only holds services for a few hours on Sundays for a smaller group of people.
Since March, B.C. has banned gatherings of 50 or more people. In November, Henry imposed a ban on gatherings for religious reasons, except groups of 10 or fewer at weddings and funerals.
A $2,300 violation ticket was issued by RCMP at a protest in Kelowna on Dec. 12. However, Vancouver Police Department have not done the same. Officers stood idly by on New Year’s Eve as the Toronto-headquartered Hugs Over Masks group held a dance party on the Vancouver Art Gallery steps for hundreds of people. A woman was arrested for climbing on a statue and biting an officer.
None of the claims has been tested in court and the B.C. government has yet to file a reply.
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