Toronto, ON March 30, 2021 – As we prepare for the Sacred Triduum and Easter, it is time to reflect on the great truth of our faith, the joy of the resurrection. We are comforted in the sure knowledge of the great love and mercy of God, as we are confronted by the sadness and tears of our broken world.
May you all be blessed with the abundant mercies of this holy season.
It may be helpful for CCRL supporters and all persons of faith to recognize the disparity of government suppression of observances across Canada this Holy Week. (These observations may change, so reliance on each provincial situation may require updated attention for details.)
In all jurisdictions, any person who is feeling ill, or has tested positive, or has been exposed to someone with the virus, or has returned from foreign travel, will need to observe various rules on self-isolation, until cleared pursuant to said rules.
It should also be noted that all jurisdictions require safe distancing, masks, sanitization, and internal observations in addition to the relevant guidance on indoor gatherings. Each province has variations on these themes for outdoor gatherings. You should refer to your individual parish or diocesan guidance for details.
A recent court decision from March 18 refused to allow three Fraser Valley churches to expand operations under the existing provincial lockdown rules. While the government’s lockdown rules were found to be in in breach of various branches of the Charter (on 4 grounds), the government’s orders were upheld under s. 1, as a justifiable limit on those freedoms.
A separate challenge by Archbishop Michael Miller was argued on March 22 before the same judge who had ruled on the previous application. A decision is pending.
The provincial government, under the guidance of the provincial medical officer of health, Dr. Bonnie Henry, then allowed for a relaxation of the lockdown as it applied to businesses and religious institutions as of March 25, 2021. The new rules proposed to lift the previous ban on religious gatherings from no more than 10 people, in favour of expanded gatherings of up to 10 per cent of capacity or 50 persons, whichever was less, for up to four occasions between March 28 and May 18.
For example, Vancouver Archbishop Miller chose Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Divine Mercy Sunday as the designated days for these limited capacity indoor masses.
This was all done in vain, as yesterday, March 29, Dr. Henry reversed her decision, to impose a circuit breaker regime for the next three weeks, meaning that Catholics or others in British Columbia will not be able to attend church during Holy Week, the Triduum, and Eastertide, unless such gatherings can be managed in some form of outdoor settings, again with severe restrictions.
As of March 9, 2021, indoor worship gatherings are restricted to 15 per cent of capacity.
Much of the province, depending on advice from the government, are restricted to 30 individuals, such as Regina and a list of 20 other municipalities.
As of March 19, 2021, the total number of people outside of these designated areas participating in the services cannot exceed 30 per cent of seating capacity or 150 people, whichever is less.
As of February 12, 2021, attendance at most areas limited to 10% of church capacity or 50 people, whichever is lower, with additional restrictions on funeral or wedding attendance. These restrictions apply to the Archdiocese of Winnipeg – other dioceses should be checked for applicable restrictions.
As of March 15, 2021, indoor worship gatherings of up to 15 per cent capacity in grey zones, with up to 30 per cent capacity in areas of the province in other situations. Check your local authorities for details.
As of March 26, 2021, the previous restrictions to limit gatherings to 10 people in red zones or 30 people allowed in orange zones, were lifted so as to allow up to 250 persons for indoor worship across the province.
As of March 25, 2021, up to 50 per cent of occupancy for indoor religious gatherings. Check local authorities.
Indoor gatherings were limited to 50 per cent capacity or 100 people, but some relaxations for certain areas were allowed as of March 20, 2021. Check local authorities.
Prince Edward Island
As of March 13, 2021, newly imposed circuit breaker restrictions were imposed, to limit indoor gatherings to a maximum of 50 people.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Indoor services restricted to no more than 10 people in Alert Level 4; 20 people in Alert Level 3; and 50 people in Alert Level 2. Check your local authorities.
Indoor limits to 1/3 of normal seating capacity.
Indoor limit imposed on indoor worship gatherings of 25.
No more than 50 people can attend services or 1/3 of building capacity, whichever is less.
Please see also, Fr. Raymond J. de Souza’s column in the National Post, “B.C.’s Dr. Bonnie Henry takes her big stick to religion”: “It is impossible not to conclude that Henry’s office has been animated by a hostility to prayer and worship during the pandemic.”
Kept away from our churches, let us pray for each other this Holy Week.
We appeal to any of you not financially impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, who may wish to accomplish more almsgiving by sending a donation to the CCRL by clicking here or by mailing a cheque to the CCRL at 2305 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON, M6S 1P1, or by calling the office at (416) 466-8244 or 1-844-722-CCRL.
About the CCRL
Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. The CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization with a large nationwide membership base. The CCRL is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
To donate to the CCRL, please click here.
For further information:
Christian Domenic Elia, PhD
CCRL Executive Director