Timeline: Trinity Bible Chapel loses court challenge over COVID-19 restrictions
Lawyers for Trinity Bible Chapel and The Church of God in Aylmer argued that measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 violated the right to freedom of religion and assembly under the constitution.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Renée Pomerance released her decision earlier this week, saying the restrictions were reasonable and didn’t violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Here’s a look at what’s happened at the church since late 2020:
Dec. 31, 2020: Waterloo regional police announce charges for six members of Trinity Bible Chapel under the Reopening Ontario Act. The charges were laid for a gathering exceeding the limit under the act.
Jan. 7, 2021: Nine more charges are laid for gatherings at Trinity Bible Church. Six people and the church corporation itself were changed.
Jan. 8, 2021: Trinity Bible Chapel says it will now only allow 10 people to come to services. Instead, they will offer drive-in services.
Jan. 10, 2021: Trinity Bible Chapel holds its first drive-in service following the charges.
Jan. 22, 2021: Pastor Jacob Reaume says the church will open for in-person services again on Sunday, offering an "open invitation" to anyone who wants to come.
Jan. 23, 2021: The Attorney General obtained a court order for the church, saying opening under the lockdown would put them at risk being them being held in contempt of court.
Jan. 24, 2021: Trinity Bible Chapel opens for two in-person services, despite a court order from the Attorney General. Many of the estimated 300 to 600 people going into the church weren't wearing face masks.
Jan. 25, 2021: Police Chief Bryan Larkin speaks about the church services going ahead despite the provincial lockdown, calling it a "complex issue" and a "complicated process." He says police can't prevent actions and lawfully have to allow access before they can shut things down.
Jan. 26, 2021: The church's lawyer says Trinity Bible Chapel and its leadership have been served a motion for a contempt order.
Jan. 27, 2021: The church's lawyer says they will suspend in-person services for the duration of the lockdown order. The judge made an oral finding of guilt on Wednesday morning, with a written reasoning to follow. The region also laid a total of nine charges against the church.
Jan. 29, 2021: Trinity Bible Chapel says it will hold parking lot services over the weekend.
Feb. 1, 2021: Waterloo regional police announce they're investigating reports of threatening messages against the church.
Feb. 24, 2021: The lawyer for Trinity Bible Chapel confirms church elders were fined $38,000 after they were found in contempt of court in January. They also need to pay $45,000 in legal fees.
March 19, 2021: Pastor Jacob Reaume says the church is dealing with financial issues as part of the fallout for not following lockdown rules. He says Kindred Credit Union froze their line of credit.
March 20, 2021: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms says it's filing a constitutional challenge on behalf of Trinity Bible Chapel. It's also defending the Church of God in Aylmer, which is facing similar enforcement proceedings for holding gatherings during the province-wide lockdown.
April 9, 2021: Regional officials said the chapel is facing more charges for breaking COVID-19 restrictions. They said the church held an in-person service with more than 300 people in attendance on April 4.
April 16, 2021: Regional officials reported two more charges against the church for continuing to offer in-person services during the pandemic.
April 18, 2021: The church's parking lot was full of vehicles for a Sunday morning service. The Attorney General had asked the court to lock the church's doors, but the judge ruled against it.
April 25, 2021: Police handed out nine tickets to people leaving a Sunday service at Trinity Bible Chapel.
April 30, 2021: A judge granted a temporary injunction to lock the doors at Trinity Bible Chapel. The injunction was only for the weekend. The case is expected to return to court this week.
Regional officials also reported charges against churchgoers and church elders in relation to in-person services.
May 2, 2021: The parking lot of Trinity Bible Chapel was empty on Sunday morning following the injunction.
May 6, 2021: The doors at Trinity Bible Chapel will stay locked until either a sanction hearing at a later date or restrictions on gatherings increase to 30 per cent capacity.
May 10, 2021: The Ministry of the Attorney General confirmed a constitutional challenge by three southern Ontario churches over COVID-19 pandemic restrictions will be heard together in court. The challenge is expected to go before a superior court in St. Thomas this fall. Along with Trinity Bible Chapel, the Church of God in Aylmer and the Wellandport United Reformed Church in Niagara Region are involved in the challenge.
July 16, 2021: A virtual hearing was held regarding reopening the doors at Trinity Bible Chapel, but the judge reserved his decision.
July 27, 2021: A Kitchener judge ruled Trinity Bible Chapel's doors could be unlocked once it provides proof of a COVID-19 safety plan to the Ontario government. The church was also fined $35,000 for additional contempt of court findings, with its pastor fined $10,000 and other church elders fined a combined $40,000.
Aug. 22, 2021: The doors at Trinity Bible Chapel reopened.
Jan. 31, 2022: The charter challenge from Trinity Bible Chapel and The Church of God began in St. Thomas.
Feb. 28, 2022: Justice Renée Pomerance released her decision on the challenge, ruling restrictions didn’t violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
With files from CTV London