BC Government challenged over violating Charter freedoms by COVID-19 lockdown measures

Jul 9th, 2020

VANCOUVER: The Justice Centre has released a comprehensive Charter analysis of the BC Government’s violations of Charter freedoms to move, travel, assemble, associate and worship, by way of COVID-19 lockdown measures that have not yet been fully lifted.

Entitled “Benefits assumed, harms ignored,” this analysis addresses:

  • the nature of the government’s lockdown measures and how they violate Charter freedoms;
  • the BC Government’s Charter obligation to justify these violations;
  • the inaccurate claims made about COVID-19 in March and April of 2020;
  • the economic harm caused by lockdown measures;
  • the relationship between a prosperous economy and the ability to pay for good health care;
  • the negative impacts of the lockdown measures on health care; and
  • a detailed analysis of the modelling released by the BC Centre for Disease Control.

“Benefits assumed, harms ignored” questions whether the BC Government has properly considered COVID-19 within its global and historical context.

The 1957-58 “Asian flu” and the 1968-69 “Hong Kong flu” each claimed one million lives around the world, at a time when the world population was less than half of what it is today. In more average years, the annual flu is estimated to claim between 291,000 and 646,000 lives, most of them vulnerable, elderly people who are already sick with one or more serious health conditions.

As of July 8, 2020, COVID-19  is said to have killed 550,664 people around the world, a number which includes people who died of other causes while also infected with the COVID-19 virus. The primary impact has been on residents in long-term care homes and other elderly people who have one or more serious comorbidities, and not the population at large. In contrast, children and youth are generally not threatened by this virus. While this number is tragic, it is neither unusual nor unprecedented.

Yet the BC Government’s lockdown measures were and are based on the now-disproven notion that COVID-19 is an unusually deadly killer that presents a dire threat to all segments of the population.

“The concern that COVID-19 would cause large numbers of deaths amongst the general population was already disproven in April, so why are many of the lockdown restrictions still in place?” asks lawyer John Carpay, President of the Justice Centre.

“The Charter serves to protect Canada as a ‘free and democratic society’ such that governments respect the fundamental freedoms of Canadians to move, travel, assemble, associate and worship. The onus is on politicians—not the citizens who elected them— to justify violations of these fundamental freedoms,” continues Carpay.

“Thousands of British Columbians were affected when hospitals were reserved primarily for COVID-19 patients who never came. Many of these individuals are still suffering on long wait lists today. It will be months or even years before we know the full death toll of the decision to cancel and postpone tens of thousands of medically necessary surgeries, after counting all the cardiac patients who died while waiting for heart surgery, and after counting additional cancer deaths caused by lack of timely diagnosis and treatment. Meanwhile, hospitals have not been operating at anything approaching full capacity, even when the curve was already flat,” notes Carpay.

“Unemployment, poverty and social isolation predictably lead to increases in anxiety, depression, mental illness, alcoholism, drug overdoses, family violence and suicide,” adds Carpay. “These mounting public harms are the ongoing collateral damage from the BC Government’s myopic focus on stomping out all spread of a virus that is nowhere near as dangerous as once represented.”

“Health care requires money, and first-rate, excellent health care requires a lot of it. A prosperous economy is the only way to generate sufficient wealth to pay for good health care. We don’t need to choose between the economy and saving lives; we choose both or we choose neither,” concludes Carpay.