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OTTAWA, Ontario (LifeSiteNews) — The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear an appeal challenging Manitoba’s lockdown restrictions on church services.  

On March 14, the Canadian Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from five Manitoba churches, a pastor, and a deacon over COVID regulations which banned all in-person religious services in 2020 and 2021, despite allowing seemingly non-essential businesses to remain open.  

“Our clients are disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear their appeal,” Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) lawyer Allison Pejovic said in a press release 

“It was past time to have a conversation with Canada’s highest court about whether Charter-protected rights such as rights to worship and assemble ought to be prioritized over economic interests, such as ensuring that the Winnipeg Jets could practice indoors and that movie productions could continue,” said Pejovic.  

The JCCF, the pro-freedom legal advocacy group which represented the Manitoba churches, explained that the province’s regulations allowed businesses to remain open while churches, even outdoor services, were completely banned.  

The businesses permitted to stay open included taxis, in-person university classes, film and TV productions, law offices, and liquor stores. Furthermore, according to the JCCF, the National Hockey League’s Winnipeg Jets “could meet and train indoors with their extended crew, and summer Olympic competitors were allowed to train indoors.” 

Manitoba maintained a five-person limit on outdoor gatherings, while allowing hundreds of people to gather indoors at big box stores.  

The churches’ initial case was heard in May 2021 at Manitoba Court of King’s Bench, after the province had failed to provide evidence that COVID-19 spread outdoors or that outdoor gatherings were a health risk.  

During the hearing, the government’s “expert witness,” chief microbiologist and laboratory specialist Dr. Jared Bullard, acknowledged that 56 percent of positive Covid cases were not infectious. 

Despite overwhelming evidence, the court ruled that the government’s public health officials should not be “second guessed.” 

However, the applicants were not ordered to pay court costs as the court determined there to be “significant public interest in having this case adjudicated.” 

Later, in 2022, the applicants appealed the ruling, but it was dismissed in April 2023 by the Manitoba Court of Appeal.  

The Manitoba churches are hardly alone in their battle for justices.  In August, LifeSiteNews reported that Canada’s Supreme Court refused to hear two Ontario churches’ constitutional challenges to COVID-era restrictions, one of which was Trinity. 

On August 10, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed a further appeal from the Aylmer Church of God and Trinity Bible, which argued that the Ontario government violated their Charter-protected right to religious freedom through its COVID regulations. 

The church had its doors shut by Ontario Justice John Krawchenko on April 30, 2021, because it would not follow the local COVID rules in place at the time which banned in-person worship. 

The Centre pointed out the hypocrisy of placing 10-person limits on worship services while essential retail was permitted at 50 percent capacity with “social distancing.” 

COVID-era mandates, which were in place in most of Canada from late 2020 until 2022, saw many restrictions placed against places of worship. As a result, many pastors who defied the mandates were jailed and others fined thousands of dollars. Charges against many pastors, however, were dropped in court. 

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