Toronto church files constitutional challenge over COVID-19 restrictions

Toronto International Celebration Church

TORONTO — A church in Toronto’s northeast corner has filed a constitutional challenge over Ontario’s COVID-19 health regulations.

The Toronto International Celebration Church says in court documents that it intends to question the constitutional validity of the Reopening Ontario Act.

The notice of application says that the church is challenging the provincial health guideline that limits weddings, funerals, and religious services to 10 or fewer people in regions of Ontario that are under lockdown.

The application argues that the restriction goes against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees freedom of conscience and religion as well as freedom of peaceful assembly.

Lawyers for the church told the attorneys general of Ontario and Canada in a letter that they will be moving immediately to secure a motion date for an urgent injunction.

Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Peter Youngren, the founding pastor of the church, says in an online video that the church’s congregation are not COVID-19 deniers and that they have carefully adhered to guidelines.

However, Youngren says that his church’s auditorium has capacity for 1,100 people and a maximum attendance of 10 doesn’t seem equitable compared to liquor stores and big-box retailers that are still operating at close to capacity.