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Pandemic: We need to be smarter than China (and Italy)

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**This article has been amended in light of the ongoing situation in Italy.  It was originally posted to dredles.com.

Dr J Edward Les is a Pediatric Emergency Physician practicing in Calgary.

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In the winter of 2017 two 17-year-olds with a 3-D printer created a little spinny thingy called the Fidget360 and promoted it on social media.

Fidget spinners quickly went viral.  And because there was no patent, dozens of companies hurried to produce knockoffs.

By May of 2017 the little gadgets accounted for 17% of all online toy sales and had spun their way into every nook and cranny of the globe.  Every kid I tended to in the emergency department of my hospital was spinning one of the plastic gizmos—and more often than not, so were their parents.

But then—just as quickly as it started—it was over.  By September of 2017 fidget spinners had vanished, consigned to trash bins and forgotten corners of toy rooms and closets.

There’s a word we use to describe this sort of phenomenon, where something spreads quickly throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population before burning itself out.

That word is pandemic, of course.  We use it to describe massive outbreaks of disease, typically, not outbreaks of fidget spinners.

It’s a scary term—one that conjures up images of the Spanish flu, which wiped out up to 100 million people in 1918 (five percent of the world’s population); or of the bubonic plague, which ravaged the globe in the 14th century, killing half of Europe’s people and knocking the world population down to 350 million from 475 million.

Not all pandemics are as lethal as the Black Death or the Spanish flu, mind you.  The H1N1 influenza pandemic of 2009, for instance, killed approximately half a million people—a big number, but roughly on par with the death toll extracted by the seasonal flu each year.

Another pandemic—COVID-19—now threatens the world.  This time the viral assassin is a novel coronavirus that originated in China.

How much danger we are in remains a matter of intense debate.  Death toll predictions run the gamut from the ridiculous to the obtuse, from epic eradication of mankind on the scale imagined by novelist Stephen King in The Stand, all the way to: “Nothing to see here, folks, keep calm and carry on.”

Rampant misinformation, relentless spin, and wacky thinking amplified by social media hasn’t brought clarity, suffice it say.  U.S. President Donald Trump labeled the coronavirus a Democratic conspiracy.  Paranoid wing-nuts blather on about Chinese bioweapons.  Some people blame a vengeful God; others warn shrilly (and wrongly) of the risk of mail from China or of the danger of eating in Chinese restaurants.

I wrote about the coronavirus outbreak on February 20, seemingly an eternity ago.  At the time I wasn’t overly stressed—just a bit fidgety.  Twelve thousand people were infected and 250 were dead, pretty much all in the epicentre of Hubei province in China; but it seemed like a drop in the viral bucket compared to the seasonal flu, which takes out up to 600,000 people globally per year.

Plus, after initially dismissing the virus as a threat, the Chinese had reacted with unprecedented measures, locking down Wuhan and a slew of other cities, cordoning off Hubei province, shutting down mass transit, closing airports, and confining 60 million people to their homes—berating those who dared to venture outside with government drones.

It seems to have worked for the Chinese.  Epidemiologic data show that the virus continued to spread post-lockdown, but primarily among families already infected pre-quarantine.  Community spread was stopped in its tracks.

The number of cases in Hubei province ultimately crested at around 67,000, with 2900 dead.  (Just a smattering of new cases are being reported.)

By the time the Chinese instituted their draconian quarantine measures, of course, the viral dandelion had gone to seed: infectious spores of coronavirus had already blown around the world.

Still, the worst-case scenario for Canada, I surmised, surely couldn’t be worse than what Hubei endured.

Applying Hubei’s experience—a population infection rate in that province of only 0.11% (67,000 divided by 60 million) and a case fatality rate of 4.3%— to Canada’s population of 37 million would mean roughly 41,000 cases and 1750 dead in Canada.

Bad enough—but seasonal influenza kills 3500 Canadians every year; traffic accidents kill 2000 people.

So not a huge deal, right?

But here’s the problem: Canada is not China.  Neither is the U.S., or any of the other countries where coronaviral spores have taken root.

In one sense, at least, that’s a good thing: our air is much cleaner, and far fewer of us smoke cigarettes, leaving us with lungs presumably less hospitable to invading coronavirus.

However, we are not going to quarantine entire Canadian cities and provinces (it’s too late for that now anyway).

We’re not likely to close airports and shut down mass transit.

We’re not going to chase our citizens with drones.

We’re not going to mandate that entire city populations stay in their houses for weeks or months on end.

And we’re not likely to be as good at keeping infected patients alive—not because we lack the know-how, but because we lack adequate space, supplies, ventilators, and personnel.

The WHO’s Bruce Aylward, commenting on the case fatality rate observed in China, had this to say about the regime’s efforts:

“That’s the mortality in China — and they find cases fast, get them isolated, in treatment, and supported early. Second thing they do is ventilate dozens in the average hospital; they use extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (removing blood from a person’s body and oxygenating their red blood cells) when ventilation doesn’t work. This is sophisticated health care. They have a survival rate for this disease I would not extrapolate to the rest of the world. What you’ve seen in Italy and Iran is that a lot of people are dying.”

Canada may do better than Italy and Iran.  But our hospitals are already stuffed to the gills (and people won’t stop suffering from heart attacks and strokes and trauma and cancer just because COVID-19 is kicking around).

We can’t, like the Chinese, build enormous hospitals almost overnight specifically for coronavirus patients.  (We can’t even build a pipeline in this country.)

Does all of the above mean we’re screwed?

Not at all.

Certainly, we can’t do what the Chinese did.  Nor should we try.  The Italians are trying, and their country is descending into unmitigated chaos.

We must adopt a radically different strategy.

First, we must acknowledge that stopping this virus is like trying to stop the wind.

We must acknowledge what any seasoned epidemiologist can tell you: viral pandemics burn themselves out—but only after millions of people get sick and recover, freshly equipped with powerful antibodies to the virus.  The resulting collective population immunity—called herd immunity—prevents the virus from hopping from person to person to person with epidemic speed, and the pandemic dies out.

There are no other options.  Well, there are two, but neither are on the near horizon: complete eradication of the virus (as mankind did with smallpox), or the development of an effective vaccine.

We must let this pandemic burn itself out.

But just as importantly we must control how that happens.

The novel coronavirus has an R0 value of 2.2, which means that each person can infect 2.2 others.  The case fatality rate across all of China was 2.3% (it’s higher in Wubei province and outside of China—it’s over 4% in Italy, for example).  Those numbers, ominously, aren’t much different from the Spanish flu.

Knowing that most of the world cannot replicate China’s totalitarian lockdown to control viral spread, epidemiologists estimate that between 30-60% of the world could end up infected with coronavirus.

Wait a minute, you say:  Hubei province had a population infection rate of only 0.11%. That’s a far cry from 30%.

Sure.  But the Asian elephant in the room is that China, by its draconian quarantine measures, prevented community spread—which also very likely prevented the development of herd immunity.

When Wuhan and her 15 sister cities are re-opened; when the stranglehold on Hubei province is released; when the airports re-open and the trains start running and commerce restarts:  we may see a second wave of infection in China.  The virus is not gone, and because the Chinese prevented community spread from continuing for two months, most of their population is probably not immune.

It was the second wave of the Spanish flu, remember, that killed most of the people in that pandemic.  And China could be on the cusp of a second wave of COVID-19.

We must not allow this to happen globally with COVID-19.

If epidemiologists are correct even at the low end of their estimates—30% of the world’s population infected and a case fatality rate (also at the low end) of 2.3%—that means 53 million dead: roughly 255,000 of them in Canada (73 times the death toll of the seasonal flu).

Horrific stuff.  But the achilles heel of the coronavirus is that it primarily kills old people.  And we can exploit that.

The Spanish flu killed across demographics, disproportionately killing those in the age categories of 20 to 40, over 65, and younger than five. The high mortality in healthy people was a unique feature of this pandemic – as was the case with the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.

But that’s not the case with COVID-19: it kills mostly the elderly and the infirm.  The mortality rate in those over 80 is 15%; in those over 70, eight percent; and in those over 60 it’s just under four percent.  In Italy, where the death toll stood at 366 as of Sunday, the average age of those who have died is 81.

At younger ages the mortality rate drops off dramatically – the vast majority of younger people, especially kids, recover without incident, most of them with mild or no signs of illness.

But—and this is key—even though children (and healthy adults) may be completely symptomatic or have only mild symptoms after they acquire coronavirus, they still carry the virus: they are vectors, much like the rats that spread the bubonic plague in the 14thcentury.

We are not going to exterminate the children as we did the rats—but we can take real steps to mitigate the risk of viral spread.

Those most vulnerable to the deadly effects of this virus—the elderly and the medically compromised—should self-quarantine while we judiciously allow the virus to do what it does among the rest of us.

That means that we all continue to protect ourselves sensibly, just as we do from the flu: wash our hands, cough into our elbows, stay home if we are sick, learn the “Ebola handshake”, and stay away from hospitals and clinics unless truly necessary.

In an earlier version of this piece I wrote: “We must not close the schools, the airports, the theatres, the restaurants.”

I’m no longer so sure.

This is a fast-moving epidemic, and it is imperative—imperative—that we pay close attention to what is happening elsewhere as this virus marches around the world.

Reports out of Italy are deeply sobering: the elderly are dying, and they are sickening at a furious rate.  Hospital resources have been completely overwhelmed.

The Italians were utterly unprepared for the sheer volume of critically ill patients requiring intensive care all at once.

And so is Canada.

We need to slow the virus down.  We need to impede the rate of its spread to the elderly.

It may be prudent, as COVID-19 establishes a foothold in Canada.  to proactively close schools and universities, and to cancel concerts and conferences and other mass gatherings.

Messaging is key.  School closures should not incite fear and alarm.  The risk to the young and healthy remains very low—whether or not we close schools and cancel concerts doesn’t change that.

But we must do whatever we can to slow the dissemination of virus to the elderly and medically compromised, to as much as possible lessen the strain on our health care resources.

It is far easier for hospitals to deal with a crush of infected, critically ill patients over a four month period than over a four weekperiod.

We must, in the language of disease, “flatten the epidemiologic curve”.

We must sequester the elderly and the medically compromised away from the rest of the population.  They should avoid crowds, travel, and children—likely until August or later.

We cannot do this by decree—that will never work.  But we must shout this message of self-quarantine from the rooftops loudly and repeatedly so that the elderly and medically compromised understand that if they do not comply, they stand a high risk of dying.

At the same time, it is essential that we protect heath care workers and those who are medically at-risk in hospitals: we must enact systems of external triage (a.k.a. drive-through emergency medicine), external treatment sites, telemedicine, mobile treatment teams, and so on.

These measures are critical to to lessen the coming unprecedented demands on our health care system, to reduce the death rate and to buy time until we either have herd immunity or an effective vaccine.

Our politicians and medical leaders have dropped the ball on this.  They’ve been fidgeting while this virus burns, spinning confused and garbled messages of half measures and wrong measures.

It’s time to stop the fidgeting, to do away with the spin, and to lead with strength and clarity.

We must not allow the world to succumb to chaos.

We must not allow the economic infrastructure of the world to be destroyed, and society completely upended, by a viral pandemic that targets primarily the elderly and medically compromised.

LISTEN: My date with self-isolation amid the Covid 19 scare – J’Lyn Nye Interview

There is no need to panic.

We should remain calm and carry on.

But nor should we keep our head in the sand.

As Bruce Aylward put it:

“Get organized, get educated, and get working.”

After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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Brownstone Institute

WHO IHR Modifications Were Illegally Approved

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From the Brownstone Institute

By ROBERT MALONE   

The 77th meeting of the World Health Assembly concluded Saturday, June 01, 2024. This particular Assembly meeting, the first following the Covid crisis, failed to achieve agreement on the wording or passage of a proposed World Health Organization (WHO) pandemic “treaty,” also referred to as an “agreement.” In parallel to the treaty, the World Health Assembly (in close cooperation with the US HHS/Biden administration) has been working on “updating” the existing (2005) International Health Regulations (IHR) agreement, which historically functioned as a voluntary accord establishing international norms for reporting, managing, and cooperating in matters relating to infectious diseases and infectious disease outbreaks (including “pandemics”).

In blatant disregard for established protocol and procedures, sweeping IHR amendments were prepared behind closed doors, and then both were submitted for consideration and accepted by the World Health Assembly quite literally in the last moments of a meeting that stretched late into Saturday night, the last day of the meeting schedule.

Although the “Article 55” rules and regulations for amending the IHR explicitly require that “the text of any proposed amendment shall be communicated to all States Parties by the Director-General at least four months before the Health Assembly at which it is proposed for consideration,” the requirement of four months for review was disregarded in a rush to produce some tangible deliverable from the Assembly. This hasty and illegal action was taken in direct violation of its own charter, once again demonstrating an arbitrary and capricious disregard of established rules and precedent by the WHO under the leadership of the Director-General.

There was no actual vote to confirm and approve these amendments. According to the WHO, this was achieved by “consensus” among this unelected insider conclave rather than a vote; “Countries agreed by consensus to amend the International Health Regulations, which were last changed in 2005, such as by defining the term “pandemic emergency” and helping developing countries to gain better access to financing and medical products,” a WHO statement reported, continuing that “countries” agreed to complete negotiations on the pandemic accord with the year, “at the latest.”

Representatives from many WHO member nation-states were not in the room, and the ones that were there were encouraged to keep quiet. After the non-vote, there was giddy celebration of this achievement, clearly demonstrating the lack of somber maturity, commitment to both rules and careful diplomatic consensus, and absence of serious intent and purpose warranted by the topic.

This was clearly an insider clique acting unilaterally to circumvent normal process and mirrors a similar process used to confirm the re-appointment of Tedros Ghebreyesus to the Director-General position. This unelected WHO clique of “true believers” clearly signals that it believes itself above any requirements to comply with established international norms and standards, including its own. By their actions you will know them; the giddy arrogance of these actions predicts that WHO decision-making will continue to be arbitrary, capricious, and politicized, and will continue to reflect the will of various insider interest groups (and nation-states) rather than anything even approximating a broad-based international consensus.

Here in the United States, these unilateral actions, backed by an executive branch and bureaucracy that repeatedly demonstrates a deep disdain for the rule of law and the US Constitution, may require that individual States pass legislation to reject the WHO Amendments to IHR based on the illegality of the process and violation of Article 55. Similar discussions are occurring in the UK and across many WHO member states, adding momentum to the emerging WHO-exit movement.

For those not familiar, the current WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is neither a physician nor a trained public health or epidemiology specialist, but rather is an Ethiopian microbiologist, malaria researcher, and politician.

The hastily approved IHR consolidates virtually unchecked authority and power of the Director-General to declare public health emergencies and pandemics as he/she may choose to define them, and thereby to trigger and guide the allocation of global resources as well as a wide range of public health actions and guidances. These activities include recommendations relating to “persons, baggage, cargo, containers, conveyances, goods and postal parcels,” but based on earlier draft language of proposed IHR amendments and the WHO pandemic “accord” are likely to extend to both invasive national surveillance and mandated public health “interventions” such as vaccines and non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing and lockdowns. Not to mention the continuing weaponization of public health messaging via censorship of dissenting voices and liberal use of the fear-based tactics known as information or psychological bioterrorism to mobilize public opinion in favor of WHO objectives.

The IHR amendments retain troubling language regarding censorship. These provisions have been buried in Annex 1,A.2.c., which requires State Parties to “develop, strengthen and maintain core capacities…in relation to…surveillance…and risk communication, including addressing misinformation and disinformation.”

The requirement that nations “address” “misinformation and disinformation” is fraught with opportunities for abuse. None of these terms is defined in the document. Does “addressing” it mean censoring it, and possibly punishing those who have offered divergent opinions? We have already seen how doctors and scientists who disagreed with the WHO narrative under Covid-19 were censored for their views – views that turned out to be true. Some who offered protocols not recommended by the WHO even had their licenses to practice medicine threatened or suspended. How much worse will this censorship be if it is baked in as a requirement of the International Health Regulations?

The “surveillance” requirement does not specify what is to be surveilled. The IHR amendments, however, should be read together with the proposed Pandemic Treaty, which the WHO is continuing to negotiate. Article 5 of the most recent draft of the Treaty sets forth the “One Health Approach,” which connects and balances human, animal, plant, and environmental health, giving a pretext for surveillance on all these fronts.

Meanwhile, Article 4: Pandemic Prevention and Public Health Surveillance, states:

The Parties recognize that environmental, climatic, social, anthropogenic [climate change caused by people], and economic factors increase the risk of pandemics and endeavor to identify these factors and take them into consideration in the development and implementation of relevant policies…” Through the “One Health” approach, the WHO is asserting its authority over all aspects of life on earth, all of which are apparently to be surveilled.

Regarding the IHR, Article 35 details the requirements of “Health Documents,” including those in digital format. The system of digital health documents is consistent with, and in my opinion a precursor to, the Digital IDs described by the World Economic Forum. According to the attached WEF Chart, people will need a Digital ID to:

  • Access healthcare insurance and treatment
  • Open bank accounts and carry out online transactions
  • Travel
  • Access Humanitarian Services
  • Shop and conduct business transactions
  • Participate in social media
  • Pay taxes, vote, collect government benefits
  • Own a communication device [such as a cell phone or a computer]

In other words, individuals will need Digital IDs to access almost every aspect of civilized society. All of our actions, taken with the use of Digital IDs, will be tracked and traced. If we step out of line, we can be punished by, for example, being severed from our bank accounts and credit cards – similar to what happened to the Canadian Truckers. Digital IDs are a form of mass surveillance and totalitarian control.

These Digital IDs are currently being rolled out by the World Health Organization in collaboration with the European Union. Most of us will agree that this is not the way forward to make the world safer but rather is a path leading towards a techno-totalitarian hellscape.

To support decision-making, the IHR authorizes the Director-General to appoint an “IHR Expert Roster,” an “Expert Committee” selected from the “IHR Expert Roster,” as well as a “Review Committee.” However, although the committees may make recommendations, the Director-General will have final decision authority in all relevant matters.

To further illustrate the point, the revised IHR directs that “The Director-General shall invite Member States, the United Nations and its specialized agencies and other relevant intergovernmental organizations or nongovernmental organizations in official relations with WHO to designate representatives to attend the Committee sessions. Such representatives may submit memoranda and, with the consent of the Chairperson, make statements on the subjects under discussionThey shall not have the right to vote.”

The approved amendments redefine the definition of a “Pandemic Emergency;” include a newly added emphasis on “equity and solidarity;” direct that independent Nations (“States Parties”) shall assist each other to support local production capacity for research, development, and manufacturing of health products; that equitable access to relevant health products for public health emergencies including pandemics shall be facilitated; and that developed nations shall make available “relevant terms of their research and development agreements for relevant health products related to promoting equitable access to such products during a public health emergency of international concern, including a pandemic emergency.”

The amended IHR also directs that each nation (“States Parties”) shall “develop, strengthen and maintain core capacities” for “preventing, preparing for and responding to public health risks and events,” including in relation to:

  • Surveillance
  • On-site Investigations
  • Laboratory diagnostics, including referral of samples
  • Implementation of control measures
  • Access to health services and health products needed for the response
  • Risk communication, including addressing misinformation and disinformation
  • Logistical assistance

The amended IHR also includes copious new language, terms, and conditions relating to the responsibilities of “States Parties” to perform surveillance and transparent timely reporting of information relating to infectious disease outbreaks. This includes multiple references to information gathering, sharing, and distribution, including the need to counter the distribution of “misinformation and disinformation”.

There is the appearance that some of this new text may be informed by the recent failure of China (PRC/CCP) to provide timely and complete reporting of events and information relating to the initial SARS-CoV-2 outbreak. Unfortunately, this failure to inform in a timely manner was not unique. There is a long history of repeated, chronic problems with transparent national reporting of infectious disease outbreaks. A variety of adverse economic and political impacts are associated with infectious disease outbreaks, and this creates a strong incentive for both local politicians and public health officials to minimize initial reporting of unusual infectious disease signals or findings.

The amended IHR frequently refers to “scientific principles as well as the available scientific evidence and other relevant information” as a key factor in guiding decision-making. However, the IHR does not acknowledge the diversity of opinion surrounding what are considered sound and valid “scientific principles” or “scientific evidence,” and there is no indication that the World Health Assembly or the WHO recognizes how readily “scientific principles” and “scientific evidence” were manipulated or otherwise biased during prior public health crises, and the likelihood that this will continue to happen on a regular basis unless reforms designed to respect diversity of opinion and interpretation are implemented. There seems to be a complete lack of self-awareness of the rampant groupthink that chronically characterizes WHO decision-making during both the Covid crisis as well as prior public health events of concern.

Although many of these revisions are generally reasonable and aligned with good and practical international public health norms and actions, and in some cases are greatly improved relative to prior draft language, the recent history of WHO mismanagement and actual WHO spreading and amplification of mis- and disinformation regarding SARS-CoV-2 virology, immunology, and pathophysiology, pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions for SARS-CoV-2 raise legitimate concerns about how these words will be interpreted and implemented.

Furthermore, the pattern of repeated arbitrary, capricious, and scientifically unjustifiable decisions regarding Covid and monkeypox suggests that expanding the authority of either the Director-General or the WHO is unwise at this time. Rather, more mature, thoughtful, and prudent evaluation of that recent experience argues for reduced rather than expanded authority, and for a more decentralized, multilateral model for the management of global and regional public health risks and events. The world does not need more condescending authoritarianism from those entrusted to facilitate international cooperation in public health.

Just speaking in terms of best practices, it is clearly inappropriate to rely on administrators with such a vested personal interest in the outcome to be so intimately involved in crafting sweeping international policy changes. This revision process should have been managed by an independent commission of seasoned, objective experts who were carefully vetted to minimize potential conflict of interest.

The hasty willingness to bypass its own charter by unilaterally and arbitrarily jamming these changes through on extremely short notice raises further concerns regarding the reliability, maturity, and competency of the WHO, the World Health Assembly, and the Director-General to provide the calm, steady hand so sorely needed after the mismanaged major public health catastrophe and global trauma which all have experienced over the last four years.

The world, its inhabitants, those who work to provide medical care, and the overall world health enterprise deserve better.

Author

Robert W. Malone is a physician and biochemist. His work focuses on mRNA technology, pharmaceuticals, and drug repurposing research. You can find him at Substack and Gettr

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COVID-19

Fraser Valley churches challenge Dr. Bonnie Henry as dishonest and discriminatory in court

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Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry

From the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms

These churches submitted an accommodation request to gather for in-person worship services, but their request received no response for several weeks. At the same time, however, Dr. Henry had been responding within one or two days to accommodation requests from Orthodox synagogues, granting them permission to meet in-person.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms announces that Fraser Valley churches are arguing, in a 10-day hearing in Chilliwack, BC, that BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry granted preferential treatment to some faith groups over others when considering requests to be exempted from her total ban on all in-person worship services. The churches argue that their prosecution for violating public health orders is an abuse of process and ought to be stayed. Lawyers for the churches will present evidence that Dr. Henry acted dishonestly and in bad faith while banning in-person worship services in 2020 and 2021, granting immediate exemptions to Jewish synagogues while ignoring exemption requests from Muslims and Christians. The hearing will at the Chilliwack Law Courts, will conclude on Thursday, June 27.

In November 2020, Dr. Henry banned in-person worship services while allowing bars, restaurants, gyms, and salons to remain open for in-person services.

Along with several other churches in the Fraser Valley, the Free Reformed Church in Chilliwack, BC, re-opened its doors in 2020 and 2021 while simultaneously complying with health orders regarding face masks, hand washing, social distancing, etc. In January 2021, the Free Reformed Church, along with two other churches, filed a constitutional challenge to the prohibition on in-person worship services. After filing the challenge, these churches submitted an accommodation request to gather for in-person worship services, but their request received no response for several weeks. At the same time, however, Dr. Henry had been responding within one or two days to accommodation requests from Orthodox synagogues, granting them permission to meet in-person.

Two business days before the Court was scheduled to hear the constitutional challenge, Dr. Henry finally granted the Free Reformed Church and two other churches limited permission to gather outdoors, while refusing them permission to gather indoors, claiming that indoor gatherings were too risky. However, earlier that same week, Dr. Henry had granted all Orthodox synagogues in the province permission to gather indoors; that same week, mosques seeking permission to gather in-person received no accommodation.

On March 18, 2021, BC Supreme Court Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson dismissed the Free Reformed Church’s challenge, in part because Dr. Henry had granted them permission to meet outdoors. The BC Court of Appeal upheld Chief Justice Hinkson’s decision, and the Supreme Court of Canada subsequently refused to hear the case.

Meanwhile, Pastor Koopman of the Free Reformed Church, and other churches and pastors, were prosecuted by the Crown in BC Provincial Courts. On November 8, 2022, Pastor Koopman was found guilty of hosting an in-person worship service in December 2020.

On April 14, 2023, Pastor Koopman submitted an Application to the Provincial Court of British Columbia, alleging that the discriminatory actions of the Provincial Health Officer had made the continuation of his prosecution offensive to societal notions of fair play and decency and had brought the administration of justice into disrepute. In response, on May 10, 2023, the Crown argued that the abuse-of-process application should not proceed to an evidentiary hearing, and that Dr. Henry and Deputy Provincial Health Officer Dr. Brian Emerson should not be subpoenaed as witnesses in the case.

For three days, from May 15–18, 2023, Judge Andrea Ormiston heard arguments on whether the abuse of process Application could proceed to an evidentiary hearing. On September 6, 2023, Judge Ormiston denied the Crown’s Application to summarily dismiss Pastor Koopman’s abuse-of-process Application because she found that there was “some evidence that the Provincial Health Officer preferred some faith groups over others.” Judge Ormiston found that, under the circumstances, it was not “manifestly frivolous” to think that the continued prosecution of Pastor Koopman “risks undermining the integrity of the judicial process.” However, Judge Ormiston declined to allow Dr. Henry or Dr. Emerson to be subpoenaed on the matter.

“When government officials, including public health officers, exercise coercive government power, it is essential that they use that power honestly, in good faith and without discrimination against people based on irrelevant consideration, including their particular religious faith,” stated lawyer Marty Moore. “We believe that the evidence in this case will show that the Provincial Health Officer’s treatment of faith communities during 2020 and 2021 violated the rule of law and that the prosecution of pastors and churches in this context undermines public confidence not only in our public health officials, but also in our justice system.”

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