On Tuesday in BC Supreme Court in Kelowna, the legal challenge of Pastor Art Lucier, who was fined $2,300 for hosting a service at the Kelowna Harvest Church against COVID-19 gathering restrictions issued by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Jan. 8, 2021 came to court. Lucier’s lawyer Marty Moore with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms argued that his client is being prosecuted on the basis of an infringement of his rights.
The judge likely referred to prior legal challenges targeting health orders that have failed and stated “If an infringement of constitutional rights as the Crown admits took place here… can be imposed by governments through an unelected delegate of power through the Ministry of Health… and then prevent somebody in the criminal courts from raising a constitutional defence…the principles here go far beyond the interests of Lucier.”
In a news release Monday, Moore said that if this decision were allowed to stand it would mean that governments could void Canadians’ Charter rights simply by issuing administrative decisions and providing a dysfunctional process of administrative review. The two day appeal hearing was scheduled to wrap up on Tuesday, but a decision will likely not be available for several days afterwards at least.
The case of Pastor Art Lucier has shed light on how Canadian Charter rights are applicable when challenged by governmental restrictions, especially during times like these when health concerns dictate emergency measures taken at different levels across provinces and territories. Though governments may have been responding to an urgent need to contain outbreaks, such cannot come at the expense of individual freedoms constitutionally protected under law – especially since implementing statutory laws is often time consuming and thus impractical during emergencies.
The outcome of this case will therefore be watched very closely, as it sets precedent for citizens exercising their right to freedom and justice whenever governmental intervention infringes upon it – as well as establish whether or not citizens must exhaust legal remedies provided beforehand before challenging restrictions deemed unjustified or arbitrary. In addition, it will also shape both current and future attempts made by health officials trying to contain pandemics while protecting people’s rights such as assembly or peaceful protest and bringing balance between public health objectives with those guaranteed under law.