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.

Just Posted

Surrey City Hall. (File photo)
Discussions about Surrey-owned land in Langley should be behind closed doors, councillors say

That’s what Councillors Brenda Locke, Jack Hundial and former Surrey mayor Bob Bose say

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Rich Coleman returns to Cullen Commision regarding money laundering in B.C. casinos

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

A vacant lot in Willoughby Heights on 198A Street near 72nd Avenue was full of discarded trash on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
Fines for not separating gargabe, recycling going up in Langley Township

Most fines are now in the $250 range for trash-related infractions

Luke Moo (left) is raising funds to help displaced refugees from Myanmar. (Special to The Star)
Aldergrove resident fighting for more attention and aid on Myanmar crisis

Buela Say and Luke Moo are calling on local MP’s to take action and stand against ethnic cleansing

Walnut Grove Secondary student Sophie Drover will be competing in the Skills Canada National competition on May 27, 2021. (Joanne Abshire/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley student advances to national safety competition

Grade 9 student Sophie Drover won a provincial contest

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Mandarin Garden in Abbotsford had two event tents set up for outdoor dining. One of the tents, valued at more than $5,000, was stolen early Friday morning (May 14). (Submitted photo)
UPDATE: Dining tent stolen from Abbotsford restaurant is located

Owner says it would have cost more than $5,000 to replace the rented event tent

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Mike Farnworth, pre-pandemic. (File photo)
Surrey Police recruitment not distracting cops from shootings, Farnworth says

‘That’s simply not the case,’ Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth told the Now-Leader on Friday

Most Read