Ontario’s Crown prosecutor has decided to drop all charges against a pastor who allegedly violated the province’s Reopening Ontario Act during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), which represented the pastor, said the scheduled Sept. 14, 2024, trial of Michael Thiessen of Grace Baptist Church in Alliston, Ont., “will not be proceeding.”
According to the JCCF, the charges stemmed from an incident on April 25, 2021. A member of the Ontario Provincial Police had been conducting surveillance on the church in response to a complaint that it allegedly exceeded the capacity limit set under the Reopening Ontario Act.
The JCCF said two church services were held on that morning. After the first service was concluded, police officers stopped most vehicles leaving the church’s parking lot, detaining motorists and warning them of the potential fines related to the alleged act violations.
Charter RightsThe JCCF said Mr. Thiessen’s legal counsel put forward a motion to exclude evidence obtained in what they argued was a violation of Section 10(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That section guarantees the right to retain and instruct counsel without delay.
JCCF said in the release its legal counsel argued that Mr. Thiessen “should have immediately been informed of his right to counsel upon being detained by the police officer.”
Responding to the Crown prosecutor’s decision to stay charges against him, Mr. Thiessen shared his thoughts on platform X, formerly known as Twitter, on Aug. 17.
“I’m thankful that we held our ground, and that these charges are gone,” he posted.