Thursday, February 18, 2021

Canadian Court Refuses To Order Churches To Follow Health Orders Pending Hearing On Constitutionality

In Beaudoin v. British Columbia, (BC Sup. Ct., Feb. 17, 2021), a trial court in the Canadian province of British Columbia refused to issue an interlocutory injunction requiring three churches who are petitioners in the case to comply with COVID-19 public health orders banning in-person religious services in the province. The churches, clergy and another plaintiff filed suit challenging the public health orders as being in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A hearing on this challenge is scheduled for March 1.  Pending that hearing, the government sought immediate injunctions to prevent the churches from continuing to hold in-person services. Refusing to issue the requested injunction, the court said in part:

I am left to wonder what would be achieved by the issuance of an injunction in this case....

When asked, counsel for the respondents said that the respondents accept that the petitioners’ beliefs are deeply held, but in response to my question as to why an injunction was sought, responded that while the petitioners and others like them are not dissuaded from their beliefs and practices by the impugned orders, an order from this Court is more likely to accomplish their compliance.

Given the other remedies available to the respondents, I have reservations that an injunction alone, without enforcement by the B.C. Prosecution Service, would overcome the deeply held beliefs of the petitioners and their devotees.... 

Vancouver Sun reports on the decision.