Judge refuses to hear Charter arguments over N.S. COVID injunction

·2 min read
Police made arrests at Citadel Hill for violations of the Health Protection Act on May 15, one day after a judge granted the province an injunction banning large gatherings over COVID-19 concerns. (Vernon Ramesar/CBC - image credit)
Police made arrests at Citadel Hill for violations of the Health Protection Act on May 15, one day after a judge granted the province an injunction banning large gatherings over COVID-19 concerns. (Vernon Ramesar/CBC - image credit)

A justice of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court is refusing to hear arguments about whether the province's COVID-19 injunction violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Another judge granted the injunction on May 14, on the eve of a planned anti-mask rally on Citadel Hill in downtown Halifax. The injunction was granted in the midst of the third wave of the pandemic on a day when 117 new COVID-19 cases were announced.

The injunction was sought on an ex parte basis, meaning the province didn't tell anyone ahead of time that it was seeking the court order.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) was granted intervenor status to oppose the injunction, arguing that it was unnecessary and went too far.

But before the CCLA could make its case, lawyers for Nova Scotia's attorney general returned to court last week to have the injunction lifted. They argued that pandemic conditions had improved sufficiently that the injunction was no longer needed. A judge agreed.

The province also argued at that time that lifting the injunction meant the issues raised by the CCLA were moot and no longer needed to be heard.

What the judge said

On Wednesday morning, Justice James Chipman agreed.

"The injunction order was granted in markedly different circumstances, which existed six weeks ago," he said.

"Who knows what another six weeks will bring? The mind contemplates anything from an extinguished pandemic to a raging, variant-fuelled fourth wave."

The CCLA did get one concession from the province. Should it seek another injunction, it will not go the ex parte route and will instead give the association advance notice so it can intervene.

"The CCLA's issues, while interesting and thought-provoking, do not necessitate a lengthy hearing or rehearing at this time," Chipman concluded.

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