Harvest Ministries seeks ruling its Charter rights infringed when rally cancelled

By 
  • June 13, 2024

A lawsuit launched last August against the Quebec government by pastor Art Lucier and Harvest Ministries International (HMI) was, according to their lawyer, never about the money.

HMI left a $100,000 settlement offer on the table and has opted for a moral rather than a purely monetary victory.

Olivier Séguin, director of francophone operations for the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, is representing HMI. He told The Catholic Register that though “the amount that was asked in terms of material damages has been reduced, what is really relevant for us is the principle, the case law.”

Lucier and HMI declined the settlement because the defendants — Quebec Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx, the attorney general of Quebec and the Centre des Congrés du Québec — refused to acknowledge they violated the Charter rights of the plaintiffs when a three-day conference scheduled for June 2023 was abruptly cancelled three weeks before it was to take place at the Centre des Congrés du Québec in Quebec City. Lucier, pastor and trustee of HMI in Kelowna, B.C., learned from the CBC that the contract he signed with the government-owned facility the previous January had been terminated.

The grounds for cancellation were the anti-abortion views of the event organizers.  According to court filings, government ministers gleaned their knowledge of those views from social media posts made by Lucier and HMI which included prayers for the “end of abortion in our lifetime.”

Proulx announced in a press scrum she had advised all conference centres under provincial jurisdiction that events like the rally would no longer be held at government facilities.

“It’s against the fundamental principles of Quebec. This type of event will not take place here,” she said.

Rally organizers denied they were planning “anti-abortion” content for the event. Lucier said the revival was “about reconciliation, worship and fellowship.”

The original demand of $200,000 in damages has been significantly reduced, tallying up to only a few thousand dollars more than the settlement offer, but HMI will continue on to court seeking a moral victory, with the plaintiffs asking for $36,637 for material damages, $25,000 for moral prejudice and $50,000 for punitive damages for the violation of the Quebec and Canadian charters.

Crucially,  the lawsuit demands that the defendants declare the termination infringed, "without legal basis or reasonable justification, the Plaintiff's guaranteed rights to freedom of religion, expression, opinion, peaceful assembly and to non-discrimination on the grounds of religion or political opinion, contrary to sections 3, 10, 12, 13 and 15 of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, and sections 2(a)b)c) and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms." 

Seguin told the Register that discoveries in the lawsuit concluded in the first week of June.

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