Skip to content

Abbotsford MLA Mike de Jong questions why government is ‘targeting’ churches

Says ongoing court proceedings related to COVID-19 lockdowns have cost ‘a fortune’
Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong is questioning why the government has spent “a fortune” on court proceedings related to churches that said their constitutional rights were violated during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Wolfgang Depner/Black Press Media)

Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong (BC United) has questioned why the NDP government is continuing to go after Fraser Valley churches that lost their court challenge claiming their constitutional rights were violated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

De Jong, speaking Monday (May 13) during question period in the legislature, said the government is “doubling down on prosecuting churches that tried their best to find a balance between keeping people safe and meeting spiritual needs.”

Three churches – Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford, Riverside Calvary Chapel in Langley and Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack – were among those charged with violating pandemic gathering restrictions in 2020. They fought the matter in court, challenging the legislation that made the gatherings illegal.

The churches lost their first case against the province in 2021. The B.C. Court of Appeal then heard the case and also ruled against the churches in December 2022.

RELATED: B.C.’s top doctor ‘thankful’ as court ruling upholds public health orders

The matter then proceeded to nation’s highest court, the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled in August 2023 that it would not hear the churches’ appeal.

Now that the constitutional challenge is over, the original matter – whether the churches are guilty of violating the “gathering and events” order – is back in court June 6 in Chilliwack.

Free Reformed Church was already found guilty in November 2022, but a conviction was not entered on record because of the constitutional challenge nor was a penalty given at that time.

RELATED: Chilliwack pastor found guilty of hosting church service in violation of COVID rules

But both Immanuel Covenant and Riverside Calvary will have hearings on June 6 to determine whether they are also guilty.

Each violation ticket for which they are found guilty comes with a $2,300 fine.

De Jong said the government needs to stop its ongoing – and costly – actions. De Jong said “a fortune” has been spent on the proceedings, with as many as five lawyers sometimes appearing in court for the government.

“Isn’t it time that the government tired to reconcile with the law-abiding … and God-fearing folks who drew on their faith during a very difficult time and couldn’t understand why they could go to a Pilates class but couldn’t go to church?” de Jong said.

He said the court proceedings are costing the churches a “small fortune” and costing the government money and resources “that should be focused on prolific offenders who are being arrested and then turned loose to re-offend.”

In response to de Jong’s questions about how the government “can justify the huge expenses involved in targeting these peaceful, law-abiding churches and church-goers,” Attorney General Niki Sharma said during question period that she can’t comment on matters that are currently before the courts.

De Jong, who announced his retirement from provincial politics in February, is now seeking the federal Conservative Party’s nomination to be their candidate for Abbotsford-South Langley in October 2025.

RELATED: Highest court refuses to hear B.C. church appeal on COVID-19 ruling

Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford is among three Fraser Valley churches that took the government to court over its COVID-19 restrictions. (Google photo)