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BC Supreme Court to examine rule on church gatherings

North Vancouver Island protest planned for Easter

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While BC lawyers prepare to challenge a court ruling that would allow pandemic parishioners back into the pews, Vancouver Island church-goers are organizing a mass protest Easter Sunday.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms recently filed a Notice of Appeal after a lower court upheld the BC Government’s Provincial Health Orders which prohibit in-person worship services.

Paul Jaffe is a Vancouver lawyer and lead counsel for the petitioners on the case: three churches, as well as a Dawson Creek man arguing his freedom to publicaly protest despite being “reined in” by the Mounties.

“They are similar cases in the sense the target of our constitutional challenge are the orders of (Provincial Health Officer) Dr. Bonnie Henry,” he said.

“In both instances we said the order was over-broad in that they were prohibiting things for which there was no medical basis … and they were arbitrary — especially with respect to the churches — that they were prohibiting some kinds of gatherings, but not others based on the subject of discussions at these gatherings.”

Jaffe added it appeared secular assemblies were condoned, while those who simply wished to worship are being denied the same rights.

That’s the feeling of Black Creek, BC resident Larry Baillie, who said he plans on being part of a mass protest to take place Sunday in Campbell River, about 30-km north of Black Creek.

“It will be a peaceful protest, with a march,” the Living Waters Fellowship parishioner said.

Baillie said he believes the province doesn’t really know what it’s doing when it closes churches.

“Even when we were allowed to be open, our pastor received a call from the RCMP who said if they received one complaint, they would send an officer to issue tickets.”

Jaffe’s familiar with the tactic and said the churches and individuals involved in his  case have received dozens of $2,300 tickets for peacefully exercising their constitutional freedoms to gather, protest and worship.

“Between four or five people, we had about $35,000 in fines back in January. I know that increased immensely over the past few months.”

The court battles began January 8 when the Justice Centre filed a constitutional challenge against restrictions on public protest and the prohibition on in-person worship services.

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson, of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, issued a decision March 18  which struck down the prohibition on public protest in place from November 19, 2020 to February 10, 2021, but dismissed the challenge to the ban on in-person worship services.

Hinkson wrote while Henry’s orders infringe the fundamental freedoms of religion, expression, peaceful assembly and association, in the Court’s view, Henry was owed deference to her decision-making.

Hinkson further ruled Henry was not required to be correct in making her orders, but only needed to have acted in a reasonable range of alternatives.

The BC churches challenging the Provincial Health Orders assert they’ve gone to extraordinary lengths to comply with health guidelines, including limiting attendance to no more than 50 persons, pre-registering attendees, maintaining detailed contact tracing systems, rearranging seating to ensure physical distancing, providing hand sanitizer and masks, and enhancing cleaning and sanitizing procedures.

“Still, the provincial health officer ruled gatherings of people for worship were prohibited, while gatherings for people in any number of other purposes was fine,” said Jaffe.

“Watching hockey games at the pub, going to Costco and gyms are all OK. The notion that somehow transmission risks are a function of discussion is ridiculous.”

A couple of things are at stake in this case, Jaffe said.

“I think it’s important for the government to know they have no power to control the subject of discussions, and the exercise of fundamental freedoms unless they have very good reasons to do that.”

Jaffe further argues that specifically goes against the Canadian Charter of Rights that guarantees freedom of religion, conscience, thought, opinion and beliefs, expression, peaceful assembly, association, et al.

The Justice Centre will argue that a number of errors were made by the lower court ruling, including: treating the orders deferentially and considering them administrative decisions, when they should have been judged as laws affecting all BC residents; the lower court failed to adequately address the central issue in the case, namely why religious services were treated differently.

In-person faith services were banned entirely while other in-person gatherings which pose a greater risk of transmission were permitted and that the lower court failed to require the province to show specific and persuasive scientific evidence to justify its violation of constitutional rights, especially against freedom of religion, and improperly relied on the unsworn public statements of Henry made to the media.

“A declared public health crisis does not permit courts to neglect their constitutional obligation to ensure that government actions respect the Charter rights of citizens,” added Justice Centre Staff lawyer Marty Moore.

A court date for the appeal has yet to be determined.

Mike D’Amour is a former investigative reporter for Sun Media, and the Western Standard’s B.C. bureau chief

mdamour@westernstandardonline.com


Mike D'Amour is Copy Editor of the Western Standard. He worked as an investigative crime reporter at the Calgary & Winnipeg Suns. mdamour@westernstandardonline.com mdamour@westernstandardonline.com

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Misery index places Canada in bottom ranks

“Canadians are rightly concerned about the country’s high inflation and unemployment rates, and when compared to other developed countries, Canada is not doing well.”

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Canada’s combination of high rates of inflation and unemployment have secured it the sixth most “miserable” advanced economy in the world.

Tuesday morning, the Fraser Institute released a study that ranked the International Monetary Fund’s top 35 economic countries.

With an inflation rate of 3.15% and unemployment rate of 7.72% Canada’s 2021 Misery Index score is 10.88.

“Canadians are rightly concerned about the country’s high inflation and unemployment rates, and when compared to other developed countries, Canada is not doing well,” said Jason Clements, executive Vice President of the Fraser Institute.

Fraser Institute

American economist Arthur Okun created the Misery Index to understand the level of economic strain felt on an everyday basis for regular citizens of a country.

Inflation and unemployment act as measures that drastically affect the costs of living that impacts economic well-being on an individual level.

Only five countries received worse scores than Canada, Spain in the last spot with a score of 17.61, followed by Greece (15.73), Italy (11.96) and Iceland (11.26)

Countries above Canada’s score include France (10.10), the United States (9.72), Australia (7.33), and the United Kingdom (7.17).

Japan (2.61) and Switzerland (3.57) received the top scores being the least miserable.

The Misery Index was prominent in policy discussion during the 1970s and 1980s but fell out of the spotlight during the 1990s while inflation and unemployment was low.

“The fact that we are again discussing the Misery Index and Canada’s high ranking on it is bad news for all Canadians, who will suffer as a result,” Clemens said.

“Governments across Canada, particularly the federal government, should prioritize those policies that will make Canadians less miserable by lowering inflation and unemployment.”

Ewa Sudyk is a reporter with the Western Standard
esudyk@westernstandardonline.com

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LETTER: Does Copping have scientific evidence to continue with vaccine passports?

“Surely our government would not discriminate against any Albertans without a sound scientific basis for doing so.”

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RE: Vaccine passports now mandatory in Alberta

My wife and I took it upon ourselves to get tested for immunity to the COVID-19 virus at our own cost. Several other couples in our community have done the same thing. The test is carried out by the Mayo Clinic so I think we can all agree it is done by a very credible organization.

Both my wife and I tested >250 which is the highest level of immunity that they register. It is also the same level of immunity they show on the most vaccinated people. 

With this in mind, I ask the Minister of Health and the entire UCP government, what is the scientific basis for your continuing to impose the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) to discriminate against us and restrict us from being able to participate in society?

Surely our government would not discriminate against any Albertans without a sound scientific basis for doing so.

Murray Woods
Linden, AB

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‘Galileo’ stockbroker loses COVID case

Grammond explained judicial notice of obvious facts is intended to ensuring plaintiffs with pointless claims do not “bog down the judicial process” with unnecessary arguments.

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A Montreal stockbroker who likened himself to Galileo and said COVID-19 wasn’t real had his case tossed out of Federal Court, says Blacklock’s Reporter.

“Courts make decisions based on evidence brought in each particular case,” wrote Justice Sébastien Grammond.

“Some facts however are so obvious courts assume their existence and no evidence of them is required. This is called judicial notice.”

Lucien Khodeir filed a federal challenge of Treasury Board vaccination orders for employees.

Khodeir was not personally affected by the orders issued last October 6. The court was told he works as a stock trader for CIBC World Markets.

Khodeir in his submission said vaccine mandates were unnecessary since the coronavirus did not exist, and proposed to call three expert witnesses.

“It is pure speculation,” said the court.

“In his submissions, Mr. Khodeir compares himself to Galileo who was persecuted in the 17th century for asserting that the Earth revolves around the Sun, a theory unanimously accepted today. Yet unlike Mr. Khodeir, Galileo buttressed the heliocentric theory with facts, especially his discovery of Jupiter’s moons.

“In contrast, Mr. Khodeir asks us to believe his assertions regarding the coronavirus without providing any tangible fact in support. The comparison is unfair to the great Italian scholar. Mr. Khodeir’s case has no scientific footing.”

Grammond explained judicial notice of obvious facts is intended to ensuring plaintiffs with pointless claims do not “bog down the judicial process” with unnecessary arguments.

“Over the last two years most people on this planet have been affected in various ways by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the court.

“It has become common knowledge COVID-19 is caused by a virus.

“Numerous trusted sources of information have repeated this fact to the point that it is now beyond reasonable dispute. There is a lack of debate on this issue in scientific circles.”

The Federal Court noted dismissal of the claim was unrelated to numerous cases awaiting trial in which vaccine orders are being challenged as unnecessary, intrusive and unconstitutional. None of the plaintiffs challenging vaccine orders have disputed the existence of the coronavirus.

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