Canadian think tank: law must change after houses of worship treated ‘unequally’ during pandemic


by Karen Faulkner, Worthy Correspondent

(Worthy News) – A Canadian think tank has published a policy brief calling for a change in Ontario law, after concluding that houses of worship in the province were unequally and arbitrarily subjected to greater restrictions than retail businesses were during the pandemic.

In a press release last week, the Cardus think tank said Ontario should update its Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to place houses of worship in a separate category of their own as offering “essential” and constitutionally guaranteed services.

According to the Cardus brief, Ontario houses of worship suffered “unequal and occasionally arbitrary treatment” that “failed to recognize the distinct role of communities and the essential nature of public worship.”

Cardus’ conclusions were drawn following consultations with Jewish, , Sikh, Bahá’í, and leaders.

“For many religious traditions, public or communal worship is fundamental, not optional,” Director of Cardus Rev. Dr. Bennett explains in the brief. “Governments, of course, may restrict gatherings and limit freedoms during emergencies, like a pandemic. But limits on houses of worship need to be proportionate to limits on other gathering places.”

The Cardus policy brief calls for two updates to Ontario’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act that would a) Guarantee Proper Constitutional Treatment of Religious Services and b) Protect Against Arbitrariness and Jurisdictional Confusion.

“In future emergencies, no government should be able to maintain arbitrarily stricter gathering limits on gurdwaras, mosques, synagogues, churches, or other houses of worship than on liquor or hardware stores,” Cardus Policy Director Andreae Sennyah attests in the press release.

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