No injunction to save Christmas, but court action continues
EDMONTON: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is reviewing a ruling from the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, which denied a preliminary application for a temporary injunction to restore Charter rights and freedoms being denied by restrictions imposed by the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) and Alberta Government.
The full hearing of the Justice Centre’s application will take place sometime in 2021. The date has not been set yet. The Court will be asked to consider fully all of the various harms which lockdowns have inflicted, and are inflicting, on Albertans. The CMOH and other government officials will be required to answer questions under oath, and to provide evidence to justify the violation of Charter freedoms to move, travel, associate, assemble and worship.
In December, the Justice Centre filed a court challenge to Orders made by the CMOH, including an injunction application seeking a temporary suspension of certain lockdown measures until the Court fully considers the case. The Justice Centre is representing two churches and two individuals, alongside Rath & Company, who represents another individual.
Among other things, the Justice Centre argued that the Court should lift restrictions that effectively outlaw friends and family from gathering at each other’s homes to celebrate Christmas, and the public health order that prohibits outdoor hockey and other gatherings. Under this Order, grandparents cannot visit their grandchildren, and immediate family cannot be together if they do not live in the same household.
Since March 16, 2020, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) has pronounced 42 public health orders that have violated constitutionally-protected rights and freedoms as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. At the heart of the case is a challenge to the constitutionality of Orders issued by one person without any consultation or review by the Alberta Legislature, contrary to the principles of democracy and the rule of law.
The latest CMOH Order declares illegal the celebration of Christmas among friends and family in a private home, restricts weddings and funerals to only 10 people, and completely prohibits all outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people.
“On this application for a temporary injunction, the government was not required to demonstrate that its violation of Charter freedoms were justified. The fact the injunction was not granted does not mean the lockdown measures that violate people's Charter rights are justified – that will be decided at the main hearing, to come in 2021,” states Justice Centre staff lawyer James Kitchen.
“The Court upheld the CMOH Orders simply by presuming that the Orders must be in the public interest. In regard to this application, the Court did not consider evidence as to whether the Orders actually are in the public interest or not. This, too, will be ruled on in 2021,” continues Mr. Kitchen.
“Dr. Deena Hinshaw swore and filed a cursory affidavit, with very little evidence in support of her opinions. Cross-examination prior to the injunction hearing was not possible, but will take place in 2021,” continues Mr. Kitchen.
“Justice Kirker agreed that Albertans are suffering irreparable harm - harm that cannot be remedied or compensated for - from the indoor and outdoor gathering restrictions imposed by the CMOH Order,” notes Mr. Kitchen.