The Justice Centre issued a warning to the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) in April 2020 for violating the Charter freedoms of members of the Nipawin Apostolic Church.
The church had meticulously planned a drive-in Easter service for Sunday morning, in the same format as a drive-in movie, ensuring that social distancing would be observed. The church had asked people to stay in their vehicles, and to listen to service and participate in worship via their radios. Car windows would remain closed, and people could flash their car lights instead of saying “amen.” The church did all within its power to follow correct provincial guidelines, and also obtained the approval of municipal officials. Many such services have occurred without incident across Canada with reported success.
The SHA however deemed the church’s drive-in Easter service a mass gathering in violation of Saskatchewan’s Public Health Order. The church had to cancel its plans, or face the risk of it and its parishioners receiving steep fines. The SHA’s reasoning for its decision was ostensibly over a concern that attendees would leave their vehicles and engage in personal interactions without social distancing. If the SHA consistently applied this same approach equally to the entire province, all public parking during the Covid-19 outbreak would also be banned.
The Justice Centre issued its warning letter to the SHA on April 13, 2020, copying Premier Moe.
On Saturday, April 18th, 2020, the Saskatchewan government issued guidelines that reversed the SHA’s prior decision. The new guidelines expressly permitted drive-in services with appropriate safeguards.