QUEBEC CITY: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is funding the legal representation of Harvest Ministries International, a Christian organization based in British Columbia, in a case that sounds like something out of a dystopian novel.
On or about June 2, 2023, Québec’s Minister of Tourism, Caroline Proulx, instructed the CEO of the Société du Centre des congrès de Québec in Québec City to cancel the rental of a hall planned for a religious, cultural and artistic event organized by Harvest Ministries. Minister Proulx and CEO Pierre-Michel Bouchard made no secret of the fact: their decision to cancel the contract was in response to the rally’s allegedly anti-abortion theme, which was said to contradict fundamental Québec principles.
In a letter dated June 5, 2023, Harvest Ministries’ lawyer gave formal notice to the government to reinstate the contract by noon on 8 June and allow the rally to be held at the Québec convention centre. It reads:
“Even if the theme of the Rally were “anti-abortion” (we deny it), your decision to ban my client from the Convention Centre – and from all similar provincial Crown properties – would be abusive, discriminatory and an attack on the fundamental freedoms of expression and religion, without a shred of reasonable justification.
Yet you attached the label “anti-abortion” to an event that was nothing of the sort. There were no so-called “anti-abortion” speeches, performances, screenings or themes on the programme. Your public statements and the termination of the Contract are eerily reminiscent of the events in Roncarelli v. Duplessis.” [translated from French]
Pastor Art Lucier, leader of Harvest Ministries, estimates the financial losses that would result from cancelling the event at $450,000. “If the Québec government does not reverse its decision, we will quickly go to court and seek not only damages, but also punitive damages and constitutional redress… not to mention the millions of dollars that a potential class action suit by those affected could cost,” says Lucier. “Everyone has the right to express their convictions and deeply held values, even if they are in the minority or unpopular. In Québec, as in the rest of Canada, state arbitrariness, censorship and discrimination have no place,” he adds.