Free Reformed Church is seen as people attend Sunday service, in Chilliwack, B.C., Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. British Columbia’s top doctor says she is thankful a petition challenging her COVID-19 orders in B.C. Supreme Court has been dismissed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Free Reformed Church is seen as people attend Sunday service, in Chilliwack, B.C., Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. British Columbia’s top doctor says she is thankful a petition challenging her COVID-19 orders in B.C. Supreme Court has been dismissed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C.’s top doctor ‘thankful’ as court ruling upholds public health orders

Dr. Henry says officials working with religious groups to plan gradual return to in-person services

British Columbia’s top doctor says she is thankful a petition challenging her COVID-19 orders in B.C. Supreme Court has been dismissed.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says in a statement on Friday she is thankful for Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson’s “thoughtful decision upholding public health orders in regards to religious gatherings.”

Health officials have regularly engaged with faith leaders throughout the pandemic and they’re working together to develop plans for a safe and gradual return to in-person religious services, she added.

A group of three Fraser Valley churches sought to hold in-person services, which have mostly been banned since November, and filed a petition in January arguing Henry’s orders infringed on their right to religious freedom.

Paul Jaffe, a lawyer with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, argued in hearings earlier this month the infringements were unjustifiable.

Hinkson agreed the petitioners’ rights were infringed, but found it was justified as Henry’s orders struck a “reasonable and proportionate” balance between their constitutional rights and her statutory power and responsibility to protect people during the pandemic.

“Against the serious risks that are associated with the pandemic, she is obliged to balance a wide variety of competing rights and interests of British Columbians and visitors to our province,” he says in a written ruling.

“Her decision was made in the face of significant uncertainty and required highly specialized medical and scientific expertise.”

Hinkson noted Henry “carefully considered the significant impacts” of her orders on religious freedom, consulting with faith communities and allowing forms of worship such as individual meetings with religious leaders.

“Her orders are limited in duration and constantly revised and reassessed to respond to current scientific evidence and epidemiological conditions.”

Jaffe had told the court the petitioners — which included the Riverside Calvary Chapel in Langley, Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford and the Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack — adopted safety protocols similar to those approved by Henry in places that remain open.

He says in a statement the Calgary-based legal advocacy group will discuss the decision with its clients, including the prospect of an appeal.

The centre says it’s pleased that Hinkson ruled in favour of an individual petitioner, Alain Beaudoin of Dawson Creek, finding Henry’s orders unjustifiably violated his right to public protest.

Beaudoin had also petitioned the court to quash a $2,300 violation ticket he received after helping to organize a protest last December over what he argued was an abuse of government power through COVID-19 rules.

Hinkson declined to overturn the ticket, agreeing with lawyers for Henry and the province that he should not rule on its validity without access to the factual background that resulted in the ticket being issued.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood, this includes protecting one’s home by moving equipment and other assets from these areas to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-normal spring flood season

High-streamflow advisory issued for the Cariboo Region and areas including Williams Lake, Quesnel and Prince George

Taylor Parr tosses a pitch against a Prince George team. The 16-year-old pitcher had surgery to fix pain in her ribs this winter, and is back on the mound once again. (Observer file photo)
Quesnel softball player back on the mound after surgery

Taylor Parr was suffering from slipping rib syndrome

Registered Nurse, Teresa Friesen immunizes Dunrovin resident, Richard Brophy. Resident’s at the home were the first in Quesnel to receive COVID-19 vaccines. (Submitted Photo)
COLUMN: Vaccine floodgates should be opened

This editor’s column first appeared in the April 14 edition of the Quesnel Cariboo Observer

Emergency crews respond to a structural fire on Highway 97 between Williams Lake and Quesnel on Friday, April 16. (Photo submitted)
Update: Famous Cariboo carver Ken Sheen’s wood shop destroyed by fire

The shop was located between Williams Lake and Quesnel

The Quesnel RCMP Detachment is one of seven northern police buildings which can now connect directly to Prince George for daily bail hearings. (Observer File Photo)
Bail hearings going virtual in B.C.’s north

A court pilot project will see virtual courtroom cameras set up in seven RCMP detatchments

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

An Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island (XRVI) climate change event in 2019 saw a large crowd occupy the Johnson Street bridge. Black Press File Photo
‘In grief for our dying world’: B.C. climate activists embark on 4-day protest

Demonstrators will walk through Vancouver for the first two days before boarding a ferry Sunday morning

A vial of some of the first 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

The male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

Most Read