Summary

40711

Trinity Bible Chapel, et al. v. Attorney General of Ontario, et al.

(Ontario) (Civil) (By Leave)

Keywords

Charter of Rights — Freedom of religion — Freedom of expression — Freedom of peaceful assembly — Freedom of association — Are lower courts consistently misinterpreting this Court’s decision in Law Society of British Columbia v. Trinity Western University, 2018 SCC 32, [2018] 2 S.C.R. 293, to incorrectly bar consideration of multiple compound infringements of Charter rights — When is it appropriate for the court to decline to consider compound Charter infringements and their impact on the analysis in R. v. Oakes, [1986] 1 S.C.R. 103 — Is deference to government decision-makers or a desire to avoid hindsight analysis leading courts hearing Charter challenges of since-repealed legislation to refrain from properly weighing expert scientific evidence that contradicts the government’s position, and thereby imposing an inappropriately subjective limit on the scientific context for their analysis in Oakes — Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, ss. 1, 2(a), (b), (c), and (d).

Summary

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The applicant churches and individuals were charged with contravening COVID-19 regulations put in place by the government of Ontario during the pandemic. The regulations applied to organized public events, social gatherings, and gatherings for the purpose of conducting religious services, rites and ceremonies. The applicants challenged portions of the regulations which imposed numerical or percentage capacity restrictions on indoor and outdoor religious gatherings between December 2020 and July 2021. While the regulations have either expired or been repealed, the charges against the applicants remain outstanding. The applicants brought motions to set aside court orders made against them, arguing that the regulations to which they related infringed s. 2 of the Charter and should be declared of no force and effect under s. 52(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice found it unnecessary to consider separate infringement of ss. 2(b), (c) and (d) of the Charter and held that the restrictions infringed s. 2(a) Charter rights and freedoms. However, after determining that the restrictions were justified under s. 1, the court dismissed the motion to set aside the judicial orders. The Court of Appeal for Ontario dismissed the appeal.

Lower Court Rulings

February 28, 2022
Ontario Superior Court of Justice

2022 ONSC 1344, CV-21-00000095-0000, CV-21-08
Regulations held to infringe rights under s. 2(a) of the Charter but were justified under s. 1; motion to set aside judicial orders dismissed.
March 1, 2023
Court of Appeal for Ontario

2023 ONCA 134, C70528
Appeal dismissed.