COVID-19: A Call to Include Religious Organizations in Re-Opening Plan

This entry is part 22 of 30 in the series COVID-19.

Provinces across Canada are beginning to ease restrictions, lift lockdowns and take steps to restore economic, social and public activities.

CCCC, Christian Legal Fellowship and The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, have written a joint letter to Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford, calling for religious organizations to be part of that province’s re-opening plan. Each organization has made themselves available for consultation to ensure the concerns, needs and importance of religious organizations are not forgotten. In Ontario’s Framework for Reopening Our Province, the government commits to holding discussions with a lengthy list of stakeholders; however, religious organizations and churches area not directly included, despite the significant benefit they provide to their communities.

In this respect, as we enter the next stage of this pandemic, and the government begins to re-open certain services, we would welcome the opportunity to consult with you about how to support religious communities and charities, who can make important and essential contributions to our province during this time. We note that your government recently announced that it will be consulting with sectors impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, but faith communities were not specifically included in its list of stakeholders. We ask you to prioritize support, increased flexibility, and accommodation for religious communities seeking to serve Ontarians. We are concerned that an ongoing exclusion of religious communities such as churches from the province’s list of “essential” services, especially for an extended period, may have a disproportionate burden on many individuals and families, at a time when they are most in need of the unique and vital support that their faith leaders and communities can provide.  

Our full joint letter is available here:

Other provinces have already turned their mind to how religious gatherings can be accommodated. For example, in Saskatchewan’s Re-Open Plan drive-in services are permitted as a way to facilitate religious gatherings. They are subject to a lengthy list of precautions and restrictions including socially distanced vehicle parking, no food or beverage service, and prior consultation with local public health officials.

Similarly, New Brunswick has addressed outdoor religious services in its Orange Phase Guidance. Amongst other guidelines, the services are limited to 50 vehicles, one hour, with no access to the building; singing should be avoided, attendees are responsible for bringing their own communion supplies, and online donations should be encouraged.

PEI has accounts for religious gatherings in Phase 3 of its renewal plan, with a potential start date of June 22, 2020. It would allow gathering of no more than 15 people indoors and 20 people outdoors. Physical distancing must be maintained with individuals who are not part of one’s household.

CCCC, along with CLF and The EFC will continue monitoring developments across the country to help ensure the concerns, needs and role of religious organizations and churches are included in re-opening plans.

Posted May 4, 2020 @ 9:00 pm

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Noteworthy is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Every organization’s circumstances are unique. Before acting on the basis of information contained in this blog, readers should consult with a qualified lawyer for advice specific to their situation.