Lockdown charges against Ontario pastor dropped

BRANTFORD, ONTARIO- The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is pleased to announce that charges against an Ontario pastor have been dropped on January 16, 2023.  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.

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.

On April 28, 2021, police came to Pastor R.’s home during an online Bible study session to serve him with a ticket for $880 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 that Pastor R.’s church had the right to hold a drive-in service.

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.

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.

The Crown withdrew all charges on January 16, 2023.

Pastor. R has been a pastor for the past 20 years.  He serves the 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.

“We are pleased that the Crown prosecutor has withdrawn the charges against Pastor R.” says lawyer Henna Parmar. “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. 18 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.”