How many Canadians will be locked up in secretly located "hotel prison" facilities, without due process, before we wake up and realize that Canada is rapidly becoming a police state? Why are we OK with accused murderers having more legal rights than returning Canadian travelers? How much longer must houses of worship remain closed, or subjected to arbitrary and irrational restrictions not imposed on big box stores? Will Canadians meekly accept the forthcoming federal restrictions on their internet and social media speech? Will we forever give up our right to assemble peacefully in public to express our opinions?
When, if ever, will politicians and other lockdown advocates on the public payroll have to endure the same suffering now inflicted on millions of Canadians who used to work in private sector jobs? Are we OK with never having friends and family over for dinner again? Are we OK with permanent isolation and loneliness, and the anxiety, stress, depression and substance abuse that come with them? Are we OK with the lockdown damage being inflicted on a generation of kids and young adults whose educations are disrupted, and who are unable to experience formative social interactions?
These are questions Canadians need to answer as we head into our eleventh month of a new political experiment—never tried before in human history—of locking down healthy people in a futile quest to stop a virus that has only a negligible impact on life expectancy.
Because actions speak louder than words, it's obvious that Prime Minister Trudeau and the Premiers have no intention of restoring freedom to Canadians. It is therefore necessary to examine the state of freedom in Canada today, compared to 12 months ago.
Freedom House researches and produces an annual Freedom in the World index, to measure how countries perform in respecting human rights and civil liberties. Each country is assigned up to 40 points based on political rights, and up to 60 points based on civil liberties, for a total maximum score of 100.
In 2019, Canada's score of 98 put us in league with Norway (100), Uruguay (98), Australia (97), Japan (96), the United Kingdom (94), Germany (94) and the United States (86). Canada looked very good compared to Mexico (62), Russia (20), Iran (17), Cuba (14), Gaza Strip (11), Central African Republic (10), China (10), Saudi Arabia (7), North Korea (3) and Syria (0).
One could argue that the 2019 index was overly generous in assessing Canada's state of freedom. For example, Freedom in the World gave us full marks on academic freedom when in fact the state of free thought and serious debate at Canadian universities has declined severely in the past decade. But let's take the 2019 ranking of 98 at face value.
Freedom House has not yet released its grading for 2020. I do not speak for Freedom House and have no involvement with their research or their annual rankings. Here below I use Freedom House's criteria to conduct my own analysis of how much freedom Canadians lost in 2020.
Canada's federal and provincial elected representatives no longer determine government policy. Politically appointed chief medical officers now make laws on the fly, none of them voted on or approved by our elected representatives. Citizens have no say in the content of ever-changing health orders that violate our Charter freedoms on a daily basis.
Our Parliament has no effective oversight over Rideau Cottage press conferences, where the Prime Minister blithely announces hundreds of billions of dollars of new spending, all of which will need to be repaid by our children and grandchildren. At the provincial level things aren't much better. Every Premier happily violates Canada's constitution by handing over vast and broad law-making powers to the chief medical officer. Democracy is on life-support when duly elected representatives are nothing more than an advisory council.
On the topic of transparency and accountability, governments refuse to post on their websites the specific evidence that might justify restricting our Charter freedoms. Rather than provide the information to which the public is entitled, politicians instead dismiss as selfish or uneducated the Canadians who object to the serious (and now likely permanent) violation of our civil liberties.
The freedom and independence of media is threatened by the federal government awarding subsidies to the herd of conformist media who won't bite the hand that feeds them. The same media have been cheerleaders for lockdowns since early 2020, and now keep Canadians in a permanent state of fear by sensationalizing COVID "cases" without providing necessary context.
Canadians are no longer free to practice and express their religious faith in public, as provincial governments across Canada have closed houses of worship and prohibited informal house gatherings, all while arbitrarily allowing various businesses to remain open. In Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the Justice Centre has had to sue, or threaten to sue, governments to allow drive-in worship services, where believers sit inside their own cars on a church parking lot.
Canadians are no longer free to express their personal views on sensitive topics without fear of retribution. While mobs on social media are still a bigger problem than government, Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons are policing the speech of doctors and Law Societies are beginning to police the speech of lawyers. Universities pander to Antifa violence rather than supporting debate on campus. The federal government plans to restrict Canadians' speech on the internet, using the vague and subjective concept of "hate" as a pretext to silence discussion on controversial topics.
Freedom of assembly now barely exists; it's limited to Canadians who have enough money or courage (or both) to face the prospect of $1,000 fines simply for exercising their Charter freedoms of association and peaceful assembly (unless it's an anti-racism protest, in which case no fines are issued).
Due process has gone out the window for honest, law-abiding citizens who exercise their Charter freedom to leave and re-enter Canada. A person accused of murder has the right to call a lawyer upon arrest, and the right to have his forced confinement reviewed promptly by a judge with the power to release him. Further, the accused murderer is not taken to a secret location; his friends and family and legal counsel know where he is being detained. None of the foregoing safeguards apply to returning travelers.
Canada's laws, policies, and practices do not treat various segments of the population equally. Teachers, policemen, social workers, politicians and more than 500,000 federal and provincial government employees have received their full pay since March of 2020, while private sector workers are suddenly forced to support their families on $2,000 per month.
Our right to use and enjoy our own property, namely our homes and businesses, continues to be restricted. Under the common law, one's home is one's castle. For centuries our legal tradition has understood that one has the right to invite people into, and keep people out of, one's own home. Hence when police want to enter a home without the owner's consent, they need to obtain a warrant. It was always legal to invite friends and family over for Christmas, and every other day of the year. No longer. Spending time with friends can result in $1,000 fines. In some provinces the authorities can enter homes without a warrant, which is normal only in a police state.
Through health orders that violate our Charter freedoms, governments have made it impossible for businesses to serve their customers (or enough customers), resulting in numerous bankruptcies. For many small business owners forced into bankruptcy by lockdowns, their business was not only their livelihood, but also their life savings and their retirement fund. Personal social freedoms are now largely restricted to interacting with loved ones by video and phone only, causing isolation and loneliness which in turn create anxiety, stress, depression and all manner of harm to physical and mental health.
Canada is rapidly becoming a police state, joining repressive regimes that we looked down on, as morally inferior, only eleven months ago. Using Freedom House criteria, I believe that Canada's freedom score has dropped down to 71. Try your own analysis and see what number you come up with, using the report on Canadian freedom for 2019.
Having lost a big chunk of our freedom in 2020, Canadians must ask themselves how much more freedom we are prepared to lose in 2021, as we slide rapidly in the direction of Russia, Iran, Cuba, China, Saudi Arabia and North Korea.
Lawyer John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.