BC drops more Covid tickets issued under public health orders

BRITISH COLUMBIA: The Justice Centre is pleased to announce that more BC Covid tickets that were issued in connection with public health orders have been dropped. The Justice Centre’s clients include Hudson’s Hope Bible Fellowship, a church in a small northern BC community near the Alaska Highway, that was ticketed by RCMP for recording a live-streamed Sunday service. This ticket along with 24 other tickets issued to Justice Centre clients for holding worship services in BC were recently dropped. Four additional tickets issued in connection with outdoor protests have been withdrawn.

Hudson’s Hope Bible Fellowship was recording a live streamed service on Sunday, January 10, 2021, when the RCMP showed up to find less than 10 people present in the church. These church members were there to conduct the service, play music, and operate the sound system and cameras.

Despite the fact that Dr. Bonnie Henry had previously stated that up to 10 people could attend a house of worship to conduct a live streamed service, Hudson’s Hope Bible Fellowship was issued a $2,300 ticket for doing so at the insistence of the regional public health official.

The Justice Centre wrote a detailed letter in September 2021, urging the Crown to reconsider proceeding with the ticket. At that time, the Crown declined to drop the ticket. In response, the Justice Centre filed notice that it would challenge the constitutionality of the health order alleged to be supporting the ticket.

On February 3, 2022, more than a year after Hudson’s Hope Bible Fellowship was issued the ticket even while attempting to comply with the public health rules, the Crown directed a stay of proceedings of the charges against them.

Elsewhere in the province, the Crown dropped an additional 24 tickets, each for $2,300, issued to individuals who are being defended by the Justice Centre for participating at in-person religious services in accordance with their faith.

In January 2021, the Crown also dropped an additional four tickets issued to Justice Centre clients, in connection to related to outdoor protests in BC.

Two of those tickets were issued to Brian McLachlan, who took part in outdoor protests held in Nelson, BC. The police ticketed Mr. McLachlan despite the fact that the BC Supreme Court had already confirmed the rights of Canadians to participate in peaceful outdoor protests. The Court had already struck down Dr. Henry’s Orders which had categorically prohibited outdoor protests.

“As a Canadian and a business owner, I believe it is my constitutional right to peacefully express my opposition to government restrictions that have severely harmed not just my business, but also all of society,” states Mr. McLachlan. “Being charged for engaging in peaceful protest outdoors, where there was essentially zero risk of Covid transmission, further shook my faith in the rule of law and governments’ respect for constitutional rights,” he says.

“All levels of government, including politicians, health officials and law enforcement, have the duty to respect the constitutional rights and freedoms of Canadians,” states Marty Moore, staff lawyer with the Justice Centre.

“In response to Covid, there has been a near-total failure of government officials and authorities in BC to respect the Charter freedoms of BC residents,” continues Mr. Moore.

“While the Crown has dropped some of the tickets issued to those exercising their basic Charter freedoms, it was a violation of the Charter to issue those tickets in the first place. Our work is not done. The Justice Centre will continue to vigorously defend the constitutional rights of those still facing Covid tickets in BC and hundreds of individuals we represent in other provinces,” concludes Mr. Moore.