Constitutional challenge on public health orders continues Monday

A constitutional challenge calling on the courts to strike down parts of the province’s public health act is back on the docket Monday.

The challenge was launched by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms on behalf of seven Manitoba churches, a minister, a deacon and a man who was fined for attending an anti-lockdown rally in Steinbach. It will focus on the justification of the province’s lockdown measures.

The centre argues Manitoba’s lockdown measures are unjustified and violate some charter-protected freedoms like religion, expression and peaceful assembly. The centre’s lawyers also argue the province failed to consider the societal consequences the lockdown measures brought about.

The challenge was before the court back in February for the first part of the hearing, which saw the Justice Centre questioning the powers given to the province’s top doctors to implement public health orders.

Lawyers for the centre argued Dr. Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer and Dr. Atwall, the deputy chief public health officer, had insufficient oversight when implementing health orders.

A lawyer for the province responded by saying the practice of delegating powers in a public health emergency is used in every province in Canada.

Reasons for the broad delegation of power include the need for expertise, the ability to make decisions promptly and efficiently and the need for flexibility.

Chief Justice Glenn Joyal, who presided over the case, reserved his decision.

The original court action was filed back in December, 2020.

At the time, Allison Pejovic, a staff lawyer with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, said the orders are a severe infringement on her client’s freedom of religion and right to worship.

                With files from CTVs Danton Unger and Michael Arsenault