The Justice Centre has filed a petition with the Supreme Court of British Columbia on behalf of a local church, after the City of New Westminster cancelled the church’s booking to host a conference at the City-owned Anvil Centre.
Grace Chapel is a parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, located in downtown New Westminster. Part of Grace Chapel’s vision is to “build a multi-ethnic, diverse church where people of every nation in our community will worship God…” Grace Chapel does not have a church building of its own. Church events are held in rented spaces, including the municipally-owned and managed Anvil Centre.
As explained in their filed affidavit, on May 25, the City of New Westminster signed a contract with Grace Chapel to rent a portion of the Anvil Centre. The rental was for a youth conference to be held on July 21, 2018.
On June 21, 2018, a media article was published which included a picture of a poster for the conference.
That same day, Grace Chapel received an email from Anvil Centre Director of Sales & Marketing, Heidi Hughes. Ms. Hughes stated that the Anvil Centre was reneging on the contract and cancelling the rental, on the basis that “one of [Grace Chapel’s] event speakers / facilitators, Kari Simpson…vocally represents views and a perspective that run counter to City of New Westminster and Anvil Centre booking policy.”
Ms. Hughes did not explain how or why any of the speakers at the conference caused Grace Chapel to “promote racism, hate, violence, censorship, crime or other unethical pursuits”, or how it is possible that this speaker’s “views” or “perspective” could contravene the Anvil Centre Booking Policy.
Grace Chapel’s court petition seeks to quash the City’s decision, and seeks a Court declaration that the decision to cancel Grace Chapel’s contract was procedurally unfair, biased, unreasonable, and unjustifiably infringed the freedoms of conscience, religion, thought, belief, opinion, expression, and association and right to be free from discrimination on the basis of religion as protected by sections 2(a), 2(b), 2(d) and section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This court application further seeks a Court order prohibiting the City from denying the use of its facilities to this church on the basis of the ideas, views, opinions, perspectives, values or beliefs of Grace Chapel or of speakers selected by the Grace Chapel.
In a July 6, 2018, letter to the City of New Westminster, the Justice Centre explained that the Charter protects the right to receive expressive material as much as it does the right to speak. By cancelling the rental, the Anvil Centre unjustifiably infringed the constitutional right of those intending to listen and consider diverse opinions on topics of interest to them.
The matter will be heard on March 27, 2020.