Ontario Pandemic Stay-at-Home Order Conflicts Charter Rights: Lawyer

After advocating expanding police powers to implement COVID-19 measures with increased opposition from police and civil liberties, the Ontario government has retreated some of its new guidelines.

However, current policy still has constitutional issues, says Joanna Baron, Secretary-General of the Constitutional Foundation of Canada.

“Police officers now need to have a’reason to doubt’that an individual may be attending a rally, and asking them is a’public interest’,” Baron said in an interview. It was.

“This causes anxiety about the right to remain silent (Section 7 of the Charter) And the right to self-incrimination (Section 13). Both “reasonable suspicion” and “public interest” are very broad and subjective categories, and the law basically imposes a responsibility to disclose the purpose of going out. “

On April 16, the Ford government introduced new, stricter restrictions to combat COVID infections and increased hospitalizations, extending the first four-week stay-at-home order, which began on April 8, by two weeks. It ended in May. 20.

Under the new restrictions, the government has closed outdoor facilities such as golf courses and tennis / basketball courts to discourage large social gatherings. The playground was also closed and protests from parents arose.

To implement the measures, the government Authorized the police Randomly stop drivers and pedestrians and ask for their address and why they leave the house.

The government withdrew some of the playground restrictions and discretionary powers given to the police after rebelling against the new rules of the playground and saying that police would not use such powers one after another.

Under the revised guidelines, police can only stop someone and request information if they are suspected of attending an organized public event or social gathering.

Lisa Bildi, a lawyer at the Judicial Center for Constitutional Freedom, said the fact that police were being used to implement public health measures was accepted by those in power before the pandemic began. It reflects how much it deviates from public health principles.

In addition, she says, despite the changes in the original restrictions, the basic charter rights are still trampled.

“Police can still thwart those who appear to have attended more than 10 outdoor public rallies and social gatherings,” she told The Epoch Times.

“The right to peaceful assembly guaranteed by the Charter is clearly targeted here and there is no clear justification. We know that outdoor infections are not a significant driver of infection. The right to protest is of paramount importance to democracy, not only when the government gives them unprecedented broad powers to limit the freedom to leave the homes of all citizens. Not explicitly granted. as long as.”

In addition, Mr. Bildi says the government has arbitrarily extended Ontario’s state of emergency and manipulated the law to do so.

“The government has basically done this by using the Ontario Reopening Act at the back door to keep emergency orders valid, even without an emergency declaration subject to restrictions,” she says. ..

Under Section 7.0.2 Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, Orders made under it must not only be subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedom, but also a reasonable alternative to other measures that may be taken to deal with emergencies. ” Explains Bildi.

“Currently, there are dozens of peer-reviewed studies showing that blockades do more harm than good. Therefore, we cannot support suggesting that a stay-at-home order is reasonable at this point.”

One aspect of the restriction affects travel between states, and there are checkpoints to limit its spread along the border between Manitoba and Quebec in Ontario. Those who have reasons not considered essential enough to enter the state, with the exceptions given for travel related to work, transportation of goods, and exercise of rights granted by indigenous treaties. And will be turned back.

The Baron says that not only is such a measure unnecessary, but he also opposes the division of state / federal jurisdiction because travel between states should be a federal issue.

“Interstate travel is a matter of federal jurisdiction, so closing borders between states is clearly outside the jurisdiction of the state,” she says.

“The right to move freely within Canada is protected by Section 6 of the Charter. Given that Ontario’s prevalence is currently higher than Quebec’s or Manitoba’s, justification here. It is not clear what is. “