EDMONTON: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms today expressed outrage at the Alberta Government’s decision to enter private church property early this morning and put up a double barrier wall around Grace Life Church in Stony Plain, Alberta, to prevent Albertans from exercising their Charter freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, and worship.
Pastor James Coates and Grace Life Church are charged with violating the Public Health Act for holding Church as normal after more than a year of government restrictions. Pastor Coates spent one month and six days in jail before his release on March 22 because he would not agree to stop pastoring his church according to the congregation’s beliefs. The trial has been set for May 3, 2021, in Provincial Court in Stony Plain. The Government has requested the Court delay the trial to provide more time to produce evidence to justify government lockdown measures.
Representing Pastor Coates and Grace Life Church, the Justice Centre will challenge the constitutionality of Dr. Deena’s Hinshaw’s Health Orders in Court, arguing that they are an unjustified violation of Charter rights and freedoms. The Justice Centre’s concern with lockdowns that violate Charter freedoms has been communicated to the Alberta Government repeatedly since April of 2020.
“The Alberta government has known for many months that it will be called to publicly account before the judiciary for its lockdown destruction of the Alberta economy and trampling of Albertan’s civil liberties,” states lawyer John Carpay, President of the Justice Centre.
“Freedom of conscience and religion is the first fundamental freedom listed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is listed first because it is one of the key bedrock principles on which Canada is built. The government has so far refused to justify the limits on worship and gathering. Health orders are inconsistent, differing from province to province, and arbitrarily created by one public health official who is under no obligation legally to advise the legislatures of the science and rationale which supposedly are the basis of the orders,” continues Mr. Carpay.
The Justice Centre is in the process of filing a subpoena to require Alberta Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw to testify at the trial of Pastor Coates on May 3, 2021. The Alberta Government Crown Prosecutor is requesting the Court adjourn the May 3 trial, claiming the government needs until summer to assemble its evidence.
“We are now in our thirteenth month of Charter-violating lockdowns, in what was supposed to be a temporary two-week measure to flatten the curve. The government has had thirteen months to put together a scientific and medical basis to justify its violations of our fundamental Charter freedoms. By May 3, the government will have had fourteen months to assemble proper medical and scientific evidence to justify lockdowns. For the Alberta Government to request an adjournment of the May 3 trial of Pastor Coates is outrageous, while at the same time entering onto the church’s private property and putting up fencing with hired security,” states Mr. Carpay.
“For the government to shut down Grace Life church as part of enforcing health orders, while also seeking to delay the Charter challenge to the validity of those very same orders, is unconscionable and completely undemocratic,” continues Mr. Carpay.
“Why is the government afraid of tough questions? And why, in our thirteenth month of lockdowns, with three months’ notice of the trial set for May 3, does the government require until July 2021 to assemble medical and scientific evidence?” asks the lawyer.
“The government has known for twelve months that its lockdown measures would be challenged in court for violating Charter freedoms. The government knew in February that this trial was scheduled for May 3. They had enough evidence to shut down hundreds of small businesses, close restaurants, cancel of hundreds of necessary surgeries and medical procedures, and force Albertans into a third lockdown, yet they are not ready to present their data in court?”
“We call into question the timing of the Crown to request an adjournment of the May 3 trial,” states Mr. Carpay. “Pastor Coates is defending freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly, which are freedoms exercised by the entire population, not just churchgoers. This is likely the first time in Canadian history that a federal or provincial government has directly attacked religion and its practice, and a Christian pastor. Based on unscientific, arbitrary health orders from an unelected and politically appointed doctor, whose Orders are not scrutinized by elected Members of the Legislative Assembly,” concludes Mr. Carpay.