Pastor. R. (whose full name will remain undisclosed) had been a pastor for 20 years. He served his community through various charitable works, such as running soup kitchens, feeding the homeless, organizing programs to help people overcome addiction, and providing at risk youths with a safe space to build a community.
In April 2021, the Ontario government-imposed restrictions on gatherings in response to Covid-19 cases. The restrictions made exceptions for drive-in religious services. Pastor R. led his congregation in drive-in services during this period. Pastor R. complied with all Covid-19 restrictions. He ensured that the church adhered to social distancing, hand sanitizing, masking and capacity restrictions. Pastor R. continued to comply with the regulations and implemented public health guidelines while conducting drive-in services.
Despite his precautions, police came to Pastor R.’s home during an online Bible study session on April 28, 2021, to serve him with an $880 ticket for allegedly violating the Reopening Ontario Act by holding a drive-in service on the previous Sunday. Pastor R. informed the officers that the regulations made exceptions for drive-in services. The officers disagreed. Pastor R. was charged under the Reopening Ontario Act. He was alleged to have exceeded the ten-person gathering limit for his drive-in church service during the stay-at-home orders in April 2021.
It took 18 months before Pastor R. was even offered a date for pre-trial negotiations, and no disclosure had been received at that point. Counsel for Pastor R., provided by the Justice Centre, argued that 18 months just to get to a pre-trial was an unreasonable delay.
On January 16, 2023, the Crown dropped all charges against Pastor R.
Henna Parmar of the Justice Centre stated, “We are pleased that the Crown prosecutor has withdrawn the charges against Pastor R. Canada is extremely diverse and is home to many different religious groups. Canadians’ religious freedom should be honoured and protected, even during times of crisis. Section 11(b) of the Charter protects accused against unreasonable delay. Eighteen months without any disclosure, and without a date for trial, is exactly the type of delay that the Supreme Court of Canada was trying to prevent in the case of R v. Jordan.”