Another legal attack hovers over the measures taken by the Quebec government to protect the population against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Four citizens and the Foundation for the Defense of the Rights and Freedoms of the People (FDLP), created last month during the health crisis, claim to have meant action on Monday against the Government of Quebec and the General Directorate of Public Health.
The president of the Foundation is Stéphane Blais, who is also the leader of a Quebec political party created in 2018: “Citizens in Power”.
Recently, a lawyer, Me Jean-Félix Racicot, had tried to invalidate the containment measures imposed by the Quebec government, but had been dismissed: the Court of Appeal had ruled that he had not used the right procedural means to challenge the measures.
In this new procedure, the claimants allege that “the containment of the whole of Quebec” was an “unreasonable and unjustifiable” measure during the state of health emergency.
These government decisions have violated and threatened the rights and freedoms of citizens, who are protected by the Canadian and Quebec Charters, they argue.
They believe the state could have taken less drastic measures.
The purpose of the action is to declare several sections of the Public Health Act, which grant powers to the government to act in times of crisis, unconstitutional and inoperative. If the court finds that the law is valid, the plaintiffs have already asked in the action that many ministerial decrees and orders issued during the health crisis be declared void.
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According to them, these legislative measures confer excessive powers on the government, its ministers and the director of public health.
“We are pleading abuse, that it is exaggeration, without equal. This is what I call the destruction of Quebec in a short time, in three months, “said Mr. Guy Bertrand, who leads the action with his cabinet, in an interview.
The plaintiffs are already indicating that they are going to ask for the nullity of Bill 61 aimed at reviving Quebec’s economy, and of the law itself as soon as it is assented to, we can read in the action. Among other things, the bill aims to extend the state of health emergency “until the government ends it” and to speed up 202 infrastructure projects.
The plaintiffs argue that even in times of crisis, the government cannot, by simple ministerial decrees or renewable ministerial orders, shut down and interrupt the activities of the National Assembly and the courts, as it has done.
Nor can they unreasonably and unjustifiably infringe upon the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens, they continue.
Asked why the action was launched at the start of June, when many containment measures are being lifted, Mr. Guy Bertrand replied in an interview that there is also a question of prevention.
“You have to do it anyway because there is a risk of a second wave. And when we are successful, the legislator will have to redo his homework for the second wave, so as not to destroy Quebec as it is currently destroyed. “
A judge will now assess the government’s actions, said the well-known lawyer.
As of Monday, COVID-19 has killed nearly 5,000 people in Quebec and the province has documented more than 53,000 cases of coronavirus infection.
But the claimants believe that the Quebec government has taken extreme measures to fight COVID-19 as if it were facing Ebola: these measures risk causing a social crisis in Quebec worse than the health emergency caused. by the current pandemic, they add.
“To achieve their ends, the defendants (the government and the public health authorities) imposed extravagant measures on the plaintiffs in all spheres of human activity by trampling in several respects their rights and freedoms beyond reasonable limits and justifiable that we should expect in a free and democratic society, especially in times of health emergency ”, we can read in the procedure.
For example, they claim that the prohibitions on visits and exits for residents of CHSLDs were discriminatory, because they prevented them from moving freely, regardless of their condition and their health. The suspension of activities in the workplace has left patients who have let their health deteriorate.
Furthermore, the measures taken forced the isolation of certain people and prevented travel between regions, in violation of the freedom of movement provided for in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The government should know that all of these prohibitions will cause physical and mental health problems, numerous bankruptcies, job losses and unparalleled public debt, claim the plaintiffs.
Among the conclusions of the action is also this: a recommendation to the Attorney General of Quebec to take all necessary measures so that citizens who paid a ticket in connection with the measures taken for COVID-19 be reimbursed .
The cabinet of the Minister of Justice, Sonia LeBel, did not want to comment on the prosecution since the case is before the courts.
Me Bertrand does not know when the case can be heard by the court, considering that the judicial activities are not fully resumed.