Metro Baptist Church granted permission to hold services in Burnaby park

BURNABY, BC: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is pleased that the City of Burnaby has abandoned its prior opposition to Metro Baptist Church holding worship services in Edmonds Park, indicating an appropriate respect for the Charter-protected freedoms of religion, expression, and peaceful assembly.

In July 2023, Metro Baptist Church chose to hold worship services in Edmonds Park in Burnaby on Sundays at 11:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. The church had been experiencing difficulties finding an appropriate venue for worship services at times that were optimal for the congregation. After two Sundays in the park, however, the Burnaby Parks and Recreation Department contacted Pastor Russell Mackay and told him that the City does not allow worship services by individual churches or religious organizations in City parks.

Pastor Mackay reached out to the Justice Centre for help. Lawyer Charlene Le Beau represented Pastor Mackay in this matter and wrote to the City to request temporary permission to hold worship services in the park. Ms. Le Beau noted that the park had been host to other sanctioned political and cultural events in the past, and that Pastor Mackay’s service would occupy a discreet corner of the park where it would not disturb others. She pointed out that freedoms of religion and expression were guaranteed by section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Ms. Le Beau encouraged the City to reinterpret its policy, and, in the meantime, to grant a temporary exception to the policy for Metro Baptist Church.

On August 18, 2023, the City of Burnaby reversed its position and indicated that Metro Baptist Church could hold worship services in Edmonds Park on a temporary basis.

Ms. Le Beau stated, “Freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of religion, and freedom of expression are fundamental rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I am pleased that the City of Burnaby upholds these rights in its application of inclusive policies within the diverse community of Burnaby.”

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