Appeal filed against decision upholding Saskatchewan’s outdoor gathering limits

SASKATCHEWAN: The Justice Centre announced today that Jasmin Grandel and Darrell Mills, who challenged the constitutionality of the outdoor gathering limits in effect in Saskatchewan during 2020 and 2021, have filed an appeal against the lower Court’s decision. In that decision, the lower Court upheld the 10-person outdoor gathering restrictions as justified.

From December 17, 2020, to May 30, 2021, the Saskatchewan Government prohibited outdoor protests of more than 10 people while simultaneously allowing numerous public indoor gatherings to have at least three times as many people. Jasmin Grandel and Darrell Mills received multiple tickets for attending a handful of peaceful outdoor protests that exceeded Saskatchewan’s 10-person outdoor gathering limits.

Jasmin Grandel, a young mother, attended one such protest to express her concerns with the lack of transparency concerning the information on which Government requirements and restrictions were based, including the requirement that her son must wear a mask in kindergarten.

Darrell Mills, who is certified in Mask Fit Testing, and trained in supplied air breathing systems, attended to voice his concerns about improper mask usage and the significant burdens placed on persons who, because of their physical or psychological conditions, could not wear masks.

Ms. Grandel and Mr. Mills are two of dozens of individuals who have received tickets for peacefully protesting government restrictions outdoors. There is no evidence that police issued tickets to those protesting other issues during outdoor gathering restrictions in 2020.

For example, the Regina Police issued tickets to Ms. Grandel for numerous protests she attended in Regina, including protests with as few as 20 people in attendance. In contrast, on June 5, 2020, Regina Police Chief Evan Bray himself, along with other officers, attended a large Black Lives Matter rally with hundreds of people and other police officers, while the Government’s 10-person limit for outdoor gatherings was in effect. Moreover, just three days prior, Premier Scott Moe and Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab openly endorsed and supported the large protests, despite the outdoor gathering restrictions.

The Notice of Appeal was filed on October 20, 2022, and counsel for Ms. Grandel and Mr. Mills will seek to overturn the lower court’s findings that the outdoor gathering restrictions were justified. Amongst other grounds, the main points of the appeal include the Court’s collective treatment of distinct Charter rights, the irrationality of imposing greater gathering restrictions on outdoor than on indoor gatherings, the finding that the restrictions were “minimally impairing to people’s rights,” and the level of deference given to government decisions.

“There was clear expert evidence in this case that outdoor transmission of Covid-19 is negligible, and Dr. Shahab had even encouraged Saskatchewan residents to go outside. To impose greater restrictions outdoors than indoors, and to undermine the Rule of Law with regard to these types of heavy-handed restrictions, is unwarranted and concerning,” states Mr. Memauri–one of the lawyers for Ms. Grandel and Mr. Mills.

“The lower court refused to independently consider the Charter freedoms of peaceful assembly and association. The Charter rights of Canadians to express themselves, to assemble, and to associate are each distinct rights from each other. They are each fundamental rights of our democracy that require cautious examination before their breach can simply be justified collectively,” states Mr. Memauri. “It’s important to appreciate that many lost their lives for the existence of these rights and that they should not be easily discarded or selectively available based on the ideology behind their exercise,” concludes Mr. Memauri.