WATCH: Roman Baber’s fiery exchange with Solicitor Gen. Sylvia Jones and House Leader Paul Calandra

This week, MPP Roman Baber, asked Solicitor General of Ontario, Sylvia Jones, why she sent out a memo last September telling municipalities to charge with obstruction of justice under the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA).

Baber asks his question — the first time

“On September 19, her ministry sent a memo to all Ontario municipalities advising that a person who refuses to leave premisses, under the Reopening Ontario Act, can be charged with either under the ROA or with obstruction of justice under the criminal code,” said Baber.

“A recent article in The Lawyers Daily calls into question the ability to charge with obstruction when trying to enforce a provincial offence and failure to comply is punishable by the same provincial legislation. This goes back to a well-established principle established by the supreme court in a case named Sharma in 1993.”

Independant MPP Roman Baber

“When the refusal is prescribed by the provincial legislation, the refusal to comply with same provincial legislation cannot form the basis for an obstruction charge. The appropriate procedure is to charge under the provincial law. Speaker, refusing to comply with a police officer’s to close or vacate is an offence punishable by section 10 of the Reopening Ontario Act.”

“So why did the Solicitor General tell municipalities to press criminal charges for violations punishable by the Reopening Ontario Act?”

“She said I was a Covid denier”

Baber got a response, but as he said in his Tweet, “She said I was a Covid denier.”

She didn’t even answer his question — instead she deflected it, pretending the laws didn’t matter.

“You know, it is truly unfortunate that this member continues to not understand how important this health emergency is. We have been working as a government to make sure that every ministry, every municipal partner, every police services, everyone who had any part to play to keep people safe knew what the rules are, had the enforcement pieces necessary to make sure that they were adhered to,” said Jones.

“And at the end of the day, we as legislators and you frankly as a legislator should be talking about how to keep people safe. How to make sure that your neighbours, your friends and communities are not getting COVID-19. That’s what our responsibility is and it’s incredibly unfortunate to have this member stand up day after day and pretend that COVID-19 isn’t a thing.”

Solicitor General, Sylvia Jones while responding to Baber.

Sharma and Hayes, 1993

The Lawyers Daily article that Baber mentions outlines a few key points;

  1. “Whether viewing the Ministry of the Solicitor General’s September 2020 memorandum in the context of the state of the ROA when it was issued, or as of today’s date, the same considerations apply.”
  2. “Given the legislative framework of the ROA, it is difficult to see how the advice from the Ministry of the Solicitor General is consistent with the established law on s. 129 of the Criminal Code, and this advice could be resulting in illegal arrests. Already limited judicial resources in the criminal courts have become even more strained during the COVID-19 pandemic, and those resources may be spent on charges that will either be withdrawn for lack of a reasonable prospect of conviction or result in an acquittal based on the principles found in Sharma and Hayes.”

Baber asks his question — the second time

His second Tweet took some shots at Ontario’s Government House Leader, Paul Calandra and Jones calling them evil while comparing them to the Ford Government.

“I have suggested to the solicitor general that it’s her job to keep the rules and it’s her job to keep the rule of law. We’re still a western democracy — COVID or not.”

Independant MPP Roman Baber

“COVID is a very serious infection … it affects a segment of the population and a lot of people. But that doesn’t mean that the rule of law is out the window!,” Baber fired at Jones.

“Speaker I don’t even think that the Solicitor General came close to answering my question so I’ll follow up with the Attorney General. This is a serious legal and law-enforcement issue. COVID doesn’t change the fact that as legislators, we still have to abide by the rule of law. So to the Attorney General — suppose a provincial officer is given an order pursuant to a provincial law and refusal to obey such order was punishable by the provincial law itself. Every level of court in the land said that refusal to obey would be punishable by the provincial legislation — not by the Criminal Court of Canada,” Baber said.

“Was it appropriate of the Solicitor General to tell municipalities they have an option to arrest and charge with obstruction of justice under the criminal code when the conduct alleged is punishable by the Reopening Ontario Act. Yes or no?”

Baber’s Question to Calandra.

Calandra’s response full of talking points

Calandra responded saying they would continue to disagree with Baber.

“I think it’s very clear that we are going to continue to disagree with the opposition member opposite with respects how we should react to the current global and economic health pandemic in the Province of Ontario.

“We are certainly not going to apologize for taking those measures and the steps that are needed to do that Mr. Speaker. At the same time we have had to ensure that as the government we responded to challenges to boarders that the federal government were not willing to close those borders which has caused variants of concern to flood into the Province of Ontario,” said Calandra.

“We’ve had to increase ICU capacity that was left so devastatingly low by the previous Liberal government. We’ve had to deal with long-term care which the previous government did not invest in Mr. Speaker,” he said.

“But alternatively, we will continue to disagree with the members opposite who believe we should reduce of guard when it comes to fighting COVID-19 —we’re not going to do that, Mr. Speaker.”

Paul Calandra, Ontario Government House Leader

Based on their responses, it doesn’t seem as though the Ontario government wants to answer hard questions from opposing members — instead they’d rather deflect and continuously read their scripted talking points until the opposing member shuts up.

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