BC Court of Appeal Rules on Constitutional Challenge to Public Health Orders that Prohibited Worship Services

VANCOUVER: The Justice Centre today expressed its disappointment with the decision of the BC Court of Appeal released today, upholding the prohibition on in-person worship services imposed by the Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, in Provincial Health Orders between November 2020 and May 2021.

The hearing at the Court of Appeal occurred on March 29-30, 2022, in Vancouver.

On January 8, 2021, the Justice Centre-funded lawyers filed a constitutional challenge on behalf of three churches and four individuals against restrictions on public protest and the prohibition on in-person worship services in Public Health Orders issued by BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

On March 18, 2021, Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson of the Supreme Court of British Columbia issued a decision dismissing the challenge to the ban on in-person worship services. The decision ruled the ban on outdoor protests in place from November 19, 2020 to February 10, 2021 was unconstitutional and struck it down.

Regarding the ban on in-person worship services, Chief Justice Hinkson found that while Dr. Henry’s Orders infringe the fundamental freedoms of religion, expression, peaceful assembly and association, in the Court’s view, Dr. Henry was owed deference to her decision-making.

On March 31, 2021, a Notice of Appeal was filed with the BC Court of Appeal. Counsel for the Appellants, provided by the Justice Centre, argued in their written argument that “categorical prohibition on in-person worship services did not minimally impair or give effect as fully as possible to the Charter rights engaged.”