A number of Manitoba churches are taking the province and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin to court this week.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing a long list of churches in the lawsuit, which includes Gateway Bible Baptist Church, Pembina Valley Baptist Church, Redeeming Grace Bible Church, Grace Covenant Church, Slavic Baptist Church, Christian Church of Morden, Bible Baptist Church. A church minister, a deacon, the owners of a restaurant in Winkler, Manitoba, and an individual fined for attending a rally in Steinbach, Man. have also joined the suit.
In a release, the JCCF says the lawsuit "alleges that Orders under The Public Health Act of Manitoba are outside of the authority of Manitoba, because law-making is in the exclusive jurisdiction of the Legislature."
The lawsuit also states that Manitoba’s lockdown measures are not justified violations of the Charter-protected freedoms of conscience, religion, expression, and peaceful assembly.
"The action also contends that Manitoba and Dr. Roussin failed to consider the collateral social and health costs of locking down society."
Roussin has previously told the media that such effects are taken into consideration when making public health orders.
The lawsuit claims that the PCR Test, the tool used to diagnose COVID-19 in Manitoba, produces unreliable and misleading data and that Manitoba and Dr. Roussin knew or ought to have known of this unreliability.
The legal action in Manitoba follows legal action filed against the Alberta government on December 4, 2020. The full hearing on the constitutional issues will be heard sometime in 2021. A date has not yet been set.
The Justice Centre claims it "has been inundated with hundreds of emails from people in Manitoba who are being financially ruined by lockdowns, suffering harm to mental health, losing their businesses, unable to see their elderly parents, and being denied critical health care for conditions other than COVID-19. The government has told stores what they can sell, and restricted the sale of items deemed Dr. Roussin as 'non-essential' such as books, makeup, toys, and other everyday products."
The restriction of selling non-essential items has since been lifted.
“Locking down the majority of a healthy society is not necessary to protect those most at risk from COVID-19. The lockdowns are devastating society on multiple socio-economic and constitutional levels, and harming the well-being of citizens,” says Allison Pejovic, Staff Lawyer for the Justice Centre.
“Politicians have not put forward any persuasive evidence that lockdowns have actually saved lives. At the same time, there is no question that lockdowns have caused grave harm to millions of Canadians suffering unemployment, poverty, cancelled surgeries, suicides, isolation and the loss of their liberty,” says Pejovic.
“The scale of the government’s infringement on Canadians’ Charter-protected rights and freedoms as a result of Manitoba’s response to Covid-19 is unprecedented. It is past time that the constitutionality of these restrictions and prohibitions are adjudicated by a fair and impartial court that looks at facts and evidence.”
Dr. Jazz Atwal, Acting Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Health of Manitoba, has also been listed as a defendant.
A hearing date has been set for Tuesday and Wednesday at the Law Courts in Winnipeg. The case will be heard by Chief Justice Joyal.