COVID-19 Ontario Place of Worship: Think Tank, Treated as “Arbitrary” and “Unequal” throughout the Pandemic

It’s time to amend the state’s emergency management and civil protection legislation to protect the religious community, policy experts say.

Despite the fact that freedom of conscience and religion is fundamental freedom, the COVID-19 restrictions imposed on places of worship were often stricter than those applied to retail stores and liquor stores. To tell.

“For example, in Step 1 of the Ontario Roadmap, which will reopen in May 2021, important retailers and liquor stores could operate at 25% capacity, while indoor religious services were available regardless of the size of the place of worship. It was limited to 10 people. ” Cardus press release April 12.

May 20, 2021, Ontario Government publication The state is planned to be reopened in three stages, with Step 1 scheduled to proceed in the week of June 14, 2021. The state has finally reopened. 3 days ahead Of the schedule.

so Policy briefsRev. Andrew Bennett, Director of Freedom of Religion, entitled “Keeping the Place of Worship in Ontario Open in an Emergency,” and Andrea Senia, Policy Director of Cardas, said the place of worship was “inequality.” He claims to have faced “occasionally arbitrary treatment”. I could not recognize the clear role of the religious community and the essence of public worship. “

“For many religious traditions, public or joint worship is fundamental and not voluntary,” Bennett said in a statement on April 12. However, the place of worship limit should be proportional to the limit of other meetinghouses. “

The author quoted the example of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto. This can accommodate up to 300 people (25%), which can accommodate 1,200 people at a time, if the Ford government did not limit it to 10. Weddings, funerals, religious worship, ceremonies, or ceremonies.

Considering the restrictions and “discriminatory treatment” faced by the religious community, Brief said state officials could not distinguish between co-worship and retail activity.

“This arbitrary and unequal treatment has revealed that we cannot understand the objective difference between public worship, which is a constitutionally protected fundamental freedom under the freedom of conscience and religion.” The author said. Section 2 Of the 1982 Constitution.

“Basic freedom is the highest right, but other activities such as shopping and purchasing alcohol are not constitutionally guaranteed.”

Bennett and Senia recommended that Ontario’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act be amended by creating clear categories for religious service, ceremonies, and ceremonial treatment, including weddings and funerals.

They suggested that the restrictions imposed on religious activities by the state government should be the same as or less restricted in the next less restricted category in future emergencies.

“If a significant retailer is given maximum freedom (ie 25% capacity), the place of worship must be treated the same or less restricted (ie 25% or more capacity). There are, “they said.

“For clarity, this means that complete closure of the place of worship is not permitted if other public or private places are allowed to remain open.”

Brief also recommended that the restrictions imposed on public worship be “proportional and rational.”

“The amendments should require that religious service, rituals, and emergency orders applied to rituals include rationale when they are submitted and published,” it said.

“The rationale must clearly define how the emergency order achieves its policy objectives.”

The author emphasized that in addition to providing rationale, the extension of emergency orders by state officials or local governments should also include updated rationale to justify the extension. ..

“This recommendation ensures that conscience and religious freedom are not overly violated by arbitrary measures or disruption of jurisdiction,” the author said.

When the state of emergency declared in March 2020 ended, the Ford government New law— —Ontario Reopening (Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020— In July 2020, the state was able to continue to enforce pandemic restrictions.

“Therefore, Cardus recommends that if subsequent legislation is introduced to continue the emergency order, the new legislation should also include the above protections for the religious community,” Brief said.

“For many religious traditions, co-worship is a must and is not just an option to support and abandon virtual participation in times of crisis.”

Isaac Theo


Isaac Teo is a Toronto-based Epoch Times reporter.