Canadian News

Saskatchewan's lockdown restrictions found to violate the Charter

"While lockdown measures were presumably imposed with the good intention of saving lives, good intentions do not meet the Charter's test of demonstrable justification," the legal analysis said.

Jonathan Bradley Montreal, QC
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The Saskatchewan government's lockdown measures contradicted the freedoms of people to move, travel, assemble, associate, and worship guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, according to a legal analysis done by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF).

Marty Moore, a constitutional lawyer at the JCCF, said in the press release that Saskatchewan’s lockdown measures were unrealistic.

"Continued government restrictions on Charter freedoms are not narrowly focused on protecting the vulnerable, and therefore fail to meet the constitutional requirement that they be specific and serve a clearly identified goal or purpose," said Moore in the press release.

"Our Charter analysis shows that the Government has not justified the serious restrictions it has imposed on Saskatchewan residents."

The legal analysis, called "The Unjustified Persistence of Lockdowns," said these lockdown measures could be viewed as unconstitutional.

"We have argued that these limitations were not reasonable or 'demonstrably justified' and thus not in keeping with the Charter," said the legal analysis.

"The daily routines of millions of Saskatchewanians, including their ability to earn a living to support themselves and their loved ones, were affected when the most significant centres of the public sphere were ordered to close."

The legal analysis examines why and how the Saskatchewan government has not met its constitutional obligation to justify its restrictions on Charter rights and freedoms.

The Saskatchewan government locked down the province on the basis of models predicting 3,075 to 8,370 COVID-19 deaths. There would be an estimated 10,000 deaths without lockdown measures.

Lockdown measures taken in Saskatchewan included prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people in one room, shutting down schools, and cancelling surgeries.

It became apparent the COVID-19 modelling was inaccurate, so the Saskatchewan Health Authority said the numbers "change daily as behaviours and interventions change." Saskatchewan had taken into account public health interventions in its early modelling. The updated modelling projected 3,050 COVID-19 deaths in Saskatchewan, yet there have been 24 deaths since that time.

The legal analysis said the Saskatchewan government’s lockdown measures have brought negative consequences, which should have been foreseeable. Destroying people’s businesses and livelihoods has measurable harmful impacts on people’s health and wellness. Unemployment, poverty, and social isolation have been reported to cause increases in anxiety, depression, mental illness, alcoholism, drug overdoses, family violence, and suicide.

The cancellation of surgeries can be attributed to predictable consequences such as the death of Aaron Ogden, a 19-year-old man from Yorkton, Sask. Ogden's CT scan, which was scheduled in June, was cancelled weeks before his death from a blood clot. Ogden’s CT scan might have detected the blood clot.

The Saskatchewan government released its Re-open Saskatchewan Plan in April. Many parts of the economy and society have since reopened under strict conditions. It remains unclear when long-term restrictions will be repealed.

The legal analysis said the Saskatchewan government's lockdown measures should be reevaluated.

"While lockdown measures were presumably imposed with the good intention of saving lives, good intentions do not meet the Charter's test of demonstrable justification," the legal analysis said.

"The Charter places the onus on the Saskatchewan Government to show that its Charter-violating measures actually preserved the most lives possible, and that lockdown measures did not inadvertently harm more lives than they saved."

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