RICHMOND HILL, Ontario (LifeSiteNews) — Charges against an Ontario pastor for allegedly breaking COVID regulations have been dropped.
On August 17, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which represented pastor Michael Thiessen of Grace Baptist Church in Richmond Hill, Ontario, announced that Crown prosecutors determined to stay all charges against Thiessen for allegedly violating the Reopening Ontario Act.
“We are pleased that taxpayer-funded resources will no longer be devoted to this prosecution, which had been carried on pursuant to unscientific laws that were unjustified violations of our Charter rights and freedoms,” stated John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre.
In 2021, Thiessen was charged with violating COVID restrictions under the Reopening Ontario Act by holding church services.
On April 25, 2021, police conducted surveillance on Grace Baptist Church after receiving a complaint that the church was exceeding capacity limits. Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) stopped cars leaving the parking lot after each of the two services on that day. They informed motorists of the potential fines they could face if convicted under the Reopening Ontario Act.
After the second service, Thiessen was detained by police as he was leaving the church. An OPP officer informed Thiessen of the complaint and that he would be charged for allegedly violating the Reopening Ontario Act by holding the services.
During the legal process to fight the charges, the Justice Centre pointed out that evidence obtained during the car stop must be excluded as it violated “Section 10(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the right to retain and instruct counsel without delay.”
The Justice Centre argued OPP officers should have immediately informed Thiessen of his rights.
Thiessen’s case had originally been scheduled for September 14, 2024, but his case has now been stayed. According to “Steps to Justice,” a guide for law in Ontario, charges are stayed “when a judge or a Crown decides that it would be bad for the justice system for the case to continue. This means the issue of guilt or innocence is never determined.”
The Crown can also order a stay “when the state has acted unfairly, including a failure to bring the case to trial in a timely manner.”
By ruling the charges as stayed, the Crown can also put the case on hold and can bring the charges back within a year of the ruling. However, after a year, the Crown can no longer bring the stayed charges before the court.
The decision to stay the charges against comes as the Supreme Court of Canada recently refused to hear Ontario and British Columbia churches’ constitutional challenge to COVID restrictions.
In response, pro-family activist and high school student Josh Alexander called on Canadians of faith, including pastors, to stand up and speak out against the injustices of COVID lockdowns.
“Religious freedom is in rapid decline,” Alexander said. “Pastors need to stop being apathetic and recognize the assault on the faith.”