A Calgary superior court judge yesterday made short work of the bid by the so-called Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms to get an emergency injunction blocking public health restrictions on activities likely to exacerbate the spread of COVID-19 during the holiday season.
In a hearing that could be watched online, Madam Justice Anne Kirker of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench said lawyers for the JCCF and a Calgary law firm had failed to establish grounds for an injunction to immediately lift the restrictions ordered by Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw last week.
Northside Baptist Church in Calgary, Heights Baptist Church in Medicine Hat, and three individuals represented by the JCCF and the Rath & Company law firm had argued that their constitutionally protected religious and associational rights were infringed by emergency public health restrictions on crowded activities like religious services with the potential to turn into COVID-19 super-spreader events.
In a rather overwrought news release announcing the effort to seek the injunction, the legal advocacy organization associated with social conservative causes accused Dr. Hinshaw of “attempting to cancel Christmas and outlaw all forms of peaceful protest.”
Unsurprisingly, the JCCF says it will persist with its application to seek a ruling that Dr. Hinshaw’s measures violate constitutional rights without being justified in a free and democratic society as permitted by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Calgary-based JCCF is probably best known for its 2018 effort to overturn the NDP government’s legislation protecting students who joined school gay-straight alliances, which had been allowed to exist by an earlier law introduced and passed by the previous Progressive Conservative government.
While that action was not successful either, it certainly helped the United Conservative Party led by Premier Jason Kenney mobilize its social conservative base and win the election in April 2019.
Once in office, the UCP moved swiftly to roll back the NDP’s supports for LGBTQ students and gay-straight alliances, so while the JCCF did not succeed in court, it has to be counted as a political victory for the group and the religious right.
In 2017, speaking at a JCCF event in a pitch for donations to the group, Mr. Kenney lauded his long-time friend and political ally, JCCF founder and president John Carpay, comparing his work to the struggle of American civil rights icon Rosa Parks. This prompted embarrassed eye rolls across Alberta’s political spectrum.
In addition to their past support for pro-life groups opposed to women’s reproductive rights, both men are also former employees of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Mr. Carpay ran unsuccessfully for both the federal Reform Party and the Wildrose Party before joining the UCP.
When Mr. Carpay controversially compared the rainbow Pride flag to the swastika flag of Nazi Germany, there were calls for the JCCF leader to be expelled from the UCP.
As far as anyone knows, however, Mr. Carpay remains a UCP member, although now that the JCCF is defending protesters at anti-mask rallies potentially embarrassing to Mr. Kenney’s government and divisive within his caucus, it’s possible they aren’t as close as they once were.
It can be inferred from the limited information available to the public that a significant portion of the JCCF’s funding comes from donors associated with the right-wing funding network.
As reported here in 2018, the JCCF’s 2016 annual report published on the group’s website states that the organization is supported by 2,500 donors. A button now on the website promises a link to the group’s 2018 annual report, but did not function last night.
In a website page entitled “Donor Recognition,” the JCCF continues to say it has received “generous support” from the Aurea Foundation, the Lotte & John Hecht Memorial Foundation, and the Donner Canadian Foundation, all groups associated with providing funds to various right-wing causes.
The JCCF has been granted charitable status by the Canadian Revenue Agency, and according to its most recent report to the CRA it had total revenue of $2 million in 2018, including $1.6 million in receipted donations. It reported spending just under $365,000 on fund-raising activities in the reporting period.
Meanwhile, scuffles broke out between demonstrators and police at a rally protesting COVID-19 restrictions in Calgary on Saturday. A police officer was struck with a hockey stick, and two people were charged.
There were 1,240 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Alberta yesterday, and nine additional deaths from the disease. There are 795 people in hospital with the disease, 151 in intensive care, putting the health system under considerable strain. Dr. Hinshaw said the restrictions are slowing the spread of the coronavirus, but that the situation remains perilous in the province.