Courts in Manitoba have ruled that a Winnipeg church cannot conduct drive-in services.
Recently, the Chief Justice of the Court Queen’s Bench, Glen Joyal, adjudicated that a drive-in church service is a gathering, as such, it violates public health orders.
Joyal said: “It would be unfair to other religious organizations if it was the only applicant who received an injunction, and the other religious organizations were required to comply with the law.”
He said the fact that members of the church stayed in their vehicles amounted to nothing other than a self-directed health measure.
It should be recalled that the Springs Church first conducted a drive-in service on November 26 and was slammed with a fine of $5,000 for violating public health orders.
It later received 10 more tickets which brought the total to $32,776, for conducting more services.
In an affidavit, the pastor of the church said he was told that if the church conducted another ‘church in our cars’ service, individuals could be fined up to $100,000 and businesses could receive a fine up to $1,000,000.
The lawyer of Springs Church, Kevin Williams, said the church believes in COVID-19 and it has no association with anti-maskers.
He however argued that public health orders only list gatherings of individuals and not cars.
Williams said: “It’s a gathering, but it’s a gathering with a person self-isolated in their vehicles. We’re doing this hearing by remote means. I respectfully submit to you that if you could see me, it would have a different impact.”
Government Lawyer, Denise Guenette said exempting a particular group is a slippery slope that could trigger more exemptions requests.
She said: “The value of being in the parking lot and listening to a remote service has to outweigh the value of mitigating risk and keeping people distant.”
Joyal rejected the church’s application for a stay and found Church in Our Cars to be non-compliant with public health orders.
He said Springs Church did not show how the exemption would be of service to public good.
Joyal did not give a ruling on the charter of rights arguments but revealed those would be handled in due course.