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Judge rejects B.C. injunction request on churches

Darpan News Desk The Canadian Press, 17 Feb, 2021 06:30 PM
  • Judge rejects B.C. injunction request on churches

A judge has dismissed the B.C. government's application for an injunction against three Fraser Valley churches that are breaking COVID-19 rules prohibiting in-person services.

The injunction request by B.C.'s attorney general and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry came after the churches filed a petition challenging the restrictions, arguing they violate parishioners' rights and freedoms.

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson of the B.C. Supreme Court turned down the request today.

Last week, he said the provincial government was putting the court in an "impossible position" by asking for an injunction before the churches' petition is heard next month.

He said health orders already prohibit in-person religious services and Henry and the province have the power to escalate enforcement.

The Riverside Calvary Chapel in Langley, the Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford and Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack filed the petition last month.

During a hearing on Friday, Hinkson told a lawyer with the Ministry for the Attorney General there are other remedies to an injunction.

He said the court is "rather ill equipped" to second-guess health decisions by people who have 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.

Henry told a news conference on Tuesday her public health orders still apply while the churches' court challenge is being heard.

"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."

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