ONTARIO: The Justice Centre has written to Ontario Premier Doug Ford on behalf of a coalition of faith leaders warning against re-locking down Ontario society. There is broad concern amongst churches and business owners that Premier Ford will bend to cries to return to repressive lockdowns of places of worship and other aspects of society, despite dramatically lower rates of deaths and hospitalizations than occurred during the spring. Churches are witnessing the damaging consequences of lockdowns on the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional well-being of their parishioners and other citizens, and have cautioned that further lockdowns preventing the exercise of Charter freedoms of religion, assembly and association will be challenged in the courts.
Churches, synagogues and other places of worship remain restricted to only 30% capacity, even after complying with all public health requirements including physical distancing, screening measures and often the wearing of masks. It took the threat of legal action against the province by the Justice Centre to get access to their buildings at all, which were closed down entirely as “non-essential services” for two months in the spring.
On Thursday, September 24, a group of doctors wrote an open letter demanding that Premier Ford return the province to Stage 2 COVID lockdown measures, which would re-classify places of worship as “non-essential” and impose further restrictions or close them down entirely once again.
The Justice Centre’s letter warns that their clients will not accept any further draconian restrictions, and notes that the increase in positive test results is primarily in younger demographics who are statistically at very low risk from COVID-19. There is also strong evidence that a significant number of these “cases” are actually false positives. In addition, the dramatic increase in positive tests is clearly linked to the four-fold increase in testing since the earlier months of the pandemic: more testing discovers more asymptomatic cases. For these reasons, the Justice Centre has warned the Ford government that it must resist misguided calls to re-lockdown the province, and instead protect the constitutional rights of Canadians and help Ontarians begin the process of repairing the social and economic destruction which resulted from the spring closures.
“Our clients and a growing number of Ontarians are troubled by the shifting goals of restrictive measures: from initially protecting the health care system, to what appears to be the unattainable objective of wiping out or suppressing this virus at any cost,” notes Justice Centre lawyer Lisa Bildy.
“We want to ensure that the government’s Command Table is avoiding groupthink, and is not merely responding to the loudest voices. Even in the face of public pressure, the government has an obligation not to infringe the Charter rights of citizens without proof that doing so is demonstrably justified and only a minimal impairment of those rights,” adds Ms. Bildy. “If the government fails to do so on its own, our clients will have to turn to the courts.”