By: Greg Staley
Written On: 2021-06-14
The Quarantine Act in Canada allows the government to “make an interim order containing any provision that could be contained in a regulation made under section 62 or 63 if the Minister is of the opinion that immediate action is required to deal with a significant risk, direct or indirect, to public health.” These orders used to be subject to debate through the Parliamentary process but that is no longer the case thanks to Bill C-97 which received royal assent on June 21st of 2019.
The quarantine act is very similar to the Emergencies Act which effectively allows the federal government to declare martial law but it differs in one very big way. Unlike the Emergencies Act, the Quarantine Act doesn’t require parliamentary oversight as it was amended so that it no longer requires regulations made under the act to be brought to the House of Commons or the Senate. This means that the debate process that normally takes places in our democracy isn’t required anymore.
Sections 62.1 and 62.2 Repealed
Section 62.1 and 62.2 were both repealed in June of 2019 with the passing of Bill C-97. This is very important to know because section 62.1 of the Quarantine Act says that ” the Governor in Council may not make a regulation under section 62 unless the Minister has first caused the proposed regulation to be laid before both Houses of Parliament.
Section 62.2 of the Quarantine Act says that a regulation may be made without “being laid before each house of parliament” if the Minister believes the changes are so “immaterial or insubstantial that section 62.1 should not apply in the circumstances.” Although section 62.2 of the Quarantine Act allowed for changes to be made without going to parliament first, ultimately, if the Minister made changes without Parliament being involved they were still accountable to Parliament at the end of the day – something that is no longer the case thanks to the repeal of this section and section 62.1.
How was the amendment passed into law?
Believe it or not, the amendment that repealed these two sections of the Quarantine Act was included in Bill C-97, which is titled “An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2019, and other measures.” So essentially, Canadians received a major amendment to our Quarantine Act and it was passed by the Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau under the guise of implementing a budget. Can you imagine – politicians not being transparent (gasp).
What’s disturbing to me about this is the realization that not only was there a major amendment to the Quarantine Act that’s now being exploited (In my opinion), but it happened 10 months before the first lockdown in Canada – and it was passed in a budget bill. My gut feeling is that the Liberals didn’t want the Canadian public knowing about the amendment – they wanted it kept secret. Otherwise, why wouldn’t you make it known that a major amendment had been made that would allow the government to essentially declare a form of martial law under the Quarantine Act without parliamentary oversight? Perhaps it’s because it would look bad 10 months later when it became apparent to the Canadian public that the amendment was being heavily exploited.
Bill C-97 Vote Breakdown by Party
The Liberals voted unanimously in favour of the bill 163-0 and the bill passed with 167 votes for and 130 votes against. The Conservative and NDP party voted unanimously no to Bill C-97.
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