Harvest Ministries suing Québec government for forcing event cancellation

QUÉBEC CITY, QUÉBEC: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (Le CJLC – Centre juridique pour les libertés constitutionnelles) announces that a lawsuit has been filed at the Superior Court of Québec on behalf of Harvest Ministries International (“Harvest”) against the Québec government, Québec’s Ministry of Tourism, and the Québec City Convention Centre (Société du centre des congrès de Québec). Québec government authorities suddenly cancelled a contract for the Faith, Fire, Freedom Rally that had been scheduled to take place in Québec City from June 23 to July 2, 2023. Harvest is claiming damages for ending the rental agreement without notice, and for the unconstitutional and unjustified infringement of its Charter freedom of expression and its right to be free from religious discrimination.

On June 1, 2023, Tourism Minister, Caroline Proulx, ordered the CEO of the Convention Centre in Québec City (Centre des congrès de Québec) to dissolve the rental lease held by Harvest Ministries for their upcoming event. The day after making this pronouncement, Minister Proulx proudly stated in a press scrum that she had instructed the CEOs of various companies under her jurisdiction that events such as the Rally would no longer be held in their establishments, as they were “against the fundamental principles of Québec”.

The announcement was applauded by the Minister for the Status of Women, Martine Biron, saying (translated from French), “We are a resolutely pro-choice government. I thank Caroline for her vigilance and prompt action […] Yes, I’m all for freedom of expression, but at the government, we have principles and we’ve decided to be consistent.”

Premier François Legault added, “We’re not going to allow anti-abortion groups to put on big shows in public places.”

On June 5, 2023, Harvest provided the Québec authorities with a demand letter, which has gone unanswered.

Pastor Art Lucier, leader of Harvest Ministries based in Kelowna, BC, states that his event was a pro-life event as such: “We admit without apology that Harvest holds pro-life positions. But, contrary to what politicians and the media have said, the Rally had nothing to do with being against abortion. It was intended to be a Christian event of reconciliation between Canada’s founding peoples.” Had the event taken place, it would have been the sixth of its kind since 2018.

As stated in its application, Harvest’s legal action does not concern the validity or promotion of its position on abortion, but rather the fundamental rights of its members and followers to live their faith, to express it, and to assemble peacefully.

This type of event, known as “Faith, Fire and Freedom”, is Harvest’s main activity, to which it devotes most of its resources that are entirely offset by donations. Harvest is reporting a net loss of over $137,000 as a direct result of the unlawful and unconstitutional action of the Minister, and is claiming full compensation for this loss and other damages from the Québec government, Minister Proulx, and the Convention Centre. Harvest also seeks a judicial declaration of unjustified infringement of its Charter rights to freedom of religion, expression, opinion, peaceful assembly, and non-discrimination on the basis of religion.

Justice Centre president John Carpay stated, “It is simply not acceptable that anyone should suffer discrimination at the hands of government on account of religion or political opinion. We take governments to court to ensure that governments respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Canadians.”

“Indeed, the Minister’s actions are contrary to the rule of law. What we have here is politicians, temporarily entrusted with the levers of power, using state power arbitrarily to impose their own beliefs and worldview on citizens,” stated lawyer and Director of French Canada for the Justice Centre of Constitutional Freedoms, Olivier Séguin. “The reasons given by government decision-makers are so far removed from the principle of equality, and therefore from the rule of law, that they border on the irrational.”

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