This past Friday, March 19th, the courts heard the Canadian Constitution Foundations court challenge that sought an interim injunction that if granted, would have suspended the law requiring travellers to quarantine at their own expense at a government-run quarantine hotel while waiting for their Covid-19 test results. The injunction would have suspended the law (temporarily) as the merits of the constitutional questions were heard by the courts. The court has dismissed this motion for an interim injunction.
Judge Myers said that he “must bear in mind that the constitutional issues are not before me for resolution today, More evidence may be adduced by the parties. They may also cross-examine each others’ witnesses before the return of the application on its merits.”
Judge Myers continued by saying that “the applicants will not suffer irreparable harm in the few weeks leading up to the hearing of this application on its merits” and that “the balance of convenience, including the public interest in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and, especially, its variants, overwhelmingly supports the refusal of injunctive relief at this time.”
Canadian Constitution Foundation Director Christine Van Geyn had this to say about the decision:
“This was not the result we wanted today, but the court did recognize that the applicants in our challenge have sympathetic stories and that the constitutional questions need to be heard on the merits. The court also acknowledged that the applicants’ section 7 Charter liberty interests are engaged by the quarantine hotel policy,” said CCF Litigation Director, Christine Van Geyn.
“We look forward to the hearing on the full constitutional question, and we are proud of the work were are doing assisting these travellers, who need to leave Canada for compassionate reasons. We will seek to expedite the hearing, as these travellers have urgent needs to go and be with their ailing loved ones outside of Canada,” concluded Van Geyn.
Although the denial of an interim injunction is disappointing to many Canadians, It is good to know that the courts acknowledged that the applicants’ section 7 Charter liberty interests are engaged by the quarantine hotel policy. Section 7 of The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms reads “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”
Watching the court proceeding in person was very entertaining
As I sat in to watch the first 3 hours of the court proceeding on Friday, I was taken back by how different this Zoom court experience was from my previous days of actually going to a courthouse. My view, instead of sitting directly in front of a judge and behind the respective counsels was instead a gallery view of other viewers watching the court proceedings from their homes – and let us just say things got very interesting.
As the government’s co-counsel made his way through the government’s positions I could hear whistling – as could everyone else listening to the court proceedings. This is because roughly 200-400 people were watching at all times and the moderator couldn’t keep track of all the mics and webcams that needed to be muted/turned off. The moderator finally tracked down the culprit – a viewer in the gallery with the name “Reporter”. This was just the beginning of the entertainment.
An older man struggles to stay awake during court proceedings
As the government’s co-counsel, who unfortunately had a habit of saying “ahh” about every 10-15 seconds was speaking, I noticed an older man holding his Ipad up above his face. As the government lawyer spoke, you could watch as the Ipad slowly fell towards the older man’s face – he was struggling to stay awake while listening and we got a front-row seat! Every once in a while the Ipad would touch his face and he would jolt back to attention – the thrills.
I got flashed by Grandma
Courts are open to the public and that is no different during Covid – except that now the public attends court from home. One thing is certain, this has created the perfect environment for stories that will last a lifetime. While I watched the court proceedings Friday, an older woman (60-70 I presume) came before her webcam completely topless after exiting from the shower. She towelled off and wrapped the towel around her head as she appeared to have a conversation with someone in the background – apparently oblivious to the fact that she just flashed over 200 people in a court proceeding of all places! Who said court isn’t entertaining?
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Photo for thumbnail credit: from The Canadian Constitution Foundation website on the press release about this proceeding.