The following is an edited excerpt from a letter sent by Preston Manning, former leader of the Reform party and former leader of the official Opposition in Parliament, to Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti.
The primary purpose of this letter is to request action on the part of yourself and the House of Commons’ standing committee on justice and human rights to achieve a better and more equitable balance between: the protection of the health of Canadians through government measures adopted in response to the COVID-19 crisis and the protection of the rights and freedoms of Canadians as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
One of the unfortunate and presumably unintended consequences of the health protection measures has been the widespread and prolonged infringement of “fundamental rights” that are guaranteed by the charter:
- Section 2(a), freedom of conscience and religion, is violated by restrictions on religious gatherings and worship;
- Section 2(b), freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, is violated when elected officials and civil servants dismiss beliefs or opinions that differ from their governments’ positions, shame and censure those who seek greater balance between health protections and the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms, and encourage the banishment from social media platforms of those expressing different perspectives on how the COVID crisis should be handled.
- Section 2(b) is further violated by the colleges of physicians and surgeons, which are government bodies to which the charter applies, when they send threatening letters to physicians for having publicly expressed their opinions about the grave harms that lockdowns are inflicting on Canadians;
- Section 2(c), freedom of peaceful assembly, is violated by government orders that restrict (or ban) peaceful protests, and the selective enforcement of health orders (strict enforcement for anti-lockdown protests; little or no enforcement for anti-racism protests) severely undermines the rule of law; and
- Section 2(d), freedom of association, is violated by government orders making it illegal for friends to spend time together, for families to eat Christmas dinner together and for Canadians to associate with each other as they themselves choose.