Medicine Hat News

Case against COVID rules dismissed



A judge rejected a request Monday from two Alberta churches and three individual­s to temporaril­y suspend selected public-health rules to “save Christmas.”

The measures limit Christmas celebratio­ns to individual households, restrict weddings and funerals to 10 people and prohibit outdoor gatherings.

Premier Jason Kenney announced the stricter rules to try to bring down stubbornly high COVID-19 cases and to ease pressure on hospitals.

“When you were sworn in as a justice of this court you never contemplat­ed being ... the justice that would have the power to save Christmas, and that’s certainly what we’re asking you to do today,” lawyer Jeff Rath told Calgary Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Anne Kirker.

Rath said there isn’t any proof Canada is in the midst of a health pandemic. He also said Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, isn’t an expert on COVID-19, since the province doesn’t know where 80 per cent of cases have come from.

“This is not polio. This is not smallpox. This is not the Spanish flu. Healthy people are not dying from COVID19,” he said.

“Government has not provided the evidence that these orders will prevent harm.”

Kirker said the case had some merit and wasn’t vexatious. But she also said she wasn’t sure there has been irreparabl­e harm, so there wasn’t enough to persuade her to temporaril­y suspend restrictio­ns.

“The applicants have establishe­d with their evidence the benefit of allowing citizens of this province to gather and celebrate the holidays and to otherwise exercise unconstrai­ned their religious freedoms,” Kirker said in a 45-minute address to the court.

“I hear and appreciate how difficult it is for the applicants and other members of the public, especially at this time of year, but I cannot find the public interest is served in granting this stay.”

Kirker said Hinshaw has been empowered to make decisions involving the health of Albertans and her position needs to be given proper weight.

“I must assume the restrictio­ns protect public health.”

James Kitchen, a lawyer for the Justice Centre for Constituti­onal Freedoms, argued the restrictio­ns violate the charter of rights and were imposed without consultati­on or review.

“Canada is probably the closest it has come to an authoritar­ian police state certainly since the advent of the charter,” Kitchen told the court.

The rights and freedoms of Albertans to show affection and care for each other has disappeare­d, he added.

“Systematic­ally dismantled over the last nine months, and not by a virus, but by the government overreach in reaction to the virus.”

Nick Parker, who represente­d the Alberta government, said Hinshaw has the authority to take action to keep the public safe.

“What I would suggest we are seeing is democracy in action in the middle of the biggest health crisis in the history of this province. It is what law-making looks like when we are at the most critical point in that crisis,” Parker said.

 ??  ?? Deena Hinshaw
Deena Hinshaw
 ??  ?? Jason Kenney
Jason Kenney

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada