Churches in Canada have been subjected to aggressive policing of Covid-19 restrictions, despite the fact that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the rights of religion and assembly. Why are Christians being targeted?
It’s been over a year since the Covid-19 crisis began. In that time, vaccines have been developed and are being distributed all over the world, in the hope that everyone can return to normal life.
However, one group of people that has encountered problem after problem with the restrictions put in place by governments during the pandemic has been Christians. And, in the frosty land of Canada, tensions are beginning to rise due to the apparent targeting of Christians who simply want to go back to church.
In Alberta, a church called Gracelife has been physically fenced off by the government until its leaders agree to abide by government rules regarding mass gatherings. In the same province, a pastor in Calgary named Artur Pawlowski kicked health officials and police out of his church, comparing their tactics to those of the Gestapo, after they’d arrived to investigate supposed public-health violations.
Given that the pastor is Polish, he’s likely all too aware of how the Gestapo treated his people during World War II. Similarly, the Gracelife church being fenced off rings some familiar, and alarming, bells.
Meanwhile, in Aylmer, Ontario the police chief has said that a large church service at the town’s Church of God in defiance of Covid-19 regulations will be investigated. There were more than 100 people in attendance, which is 10 times what is allowed by the current provincial order. MPP Randy Hillier and MP Derek Sloan spoke at the church, and a nurse from nearby London, who was fired after speaking out against lockdown measures, was also in attendance. Aylmer’s police have already arrested two Christians.
The Canadian charter of Rights and Freedoms states that everyone has the fundamental freedoms of conscience, religion, peaceful assembly, and freedom of association.
Judging by the language of the document, you would think that people should be able to assemble without the government restricting them from doing so in the manner they have. While it is possible that someone could catch Covid-19, they are supposed to have the right to take that risk if it means attending services of worship and being part of a Christian community. But local health officials have other ideas.
It’s fair to ask why. The Canadian population has faced restrictions and stop/start lockdowns for as long as the US has, but now the vaccine rollout is well under way, people are ready to go back to their normal lives.
Whether these government officials like it or not, part of many people’s lives is their belief in God and their desire to worship their deity. On top of that, Canada is supposed to recognize the right of citizens to practise their religion. Now maybe some people just aren’t able to put two and two together, but community and fellowship have always been part not just of Christianity, but of all Abrahamic religions.
When I see a health inspector show up with several armed police officers to a place of worship demanding that a service is stopped, I have a hard time arguing against comparisons to the Gestapo. The same with seizing a church and telling its congregation that they must comply with the government or they cannot worship God in their own church.
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Anytime that a government sees itself above deity or as a substitution for deity it is becoming a tyranny. These Canadian citizens have the right to believe in God and worship as they choose. They have the freedom to assemble, and they have the freedom of association.
We were given time to ‘flatten the curve,’ we were given regulations to follow with the promise that things would improve, and all Christians have been met with are more lockdowns and further refusals to allow us our rights.
Canada as a nation is going to need to decide something right now. Is it going to allow Christians to kneel to God, or is it going to act as if it is God and want them to kneel to it first? If the answer is the latter, I fear that the darkest days for Christians in Canada have only just begun.