Judge questions court role in admin of health orders banning church gatherings

Judge questions court role in admin of health orders banning church gatherings

VANCOUVER — The chief justice of the British Columbia Supreme Court says the attorney general is putting the court in an “impossible position” by asking for an injunction ordering three churches to stop in-person services until their challenge of public health orders is heard.

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson says public health orders already prohibit such gatherings and it’s within the power of provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and the government to escalate enforcement without a court order.

Hinkson says he’s concerned about the reputation of the administration of justice if he grants an order that the prosecution service later decides is not in the public interest to enforce.

The judge noted that’s what happened in a recent case where the court granted an injunction to the Vancouver Port Authority against protesters.

The application from the provincial health officer and attorney general comes after the churches filed a petition challenging the COVID-19 restrictions on in-person religious services, arguing the ban violates people’s rights and freedoms.

The Riverside Calvary Chapel in Langley, the Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford and the Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack were among more than a dozen individuals or churches that filed the petition last month, with the challenge to be heard in March.

“There are alternate remedies,” Hinkson says.

“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?”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 12, 2021.

 

The Canadian Press

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