The Justice Centre represented Patrick Lefebvre, an Edmonton resident who was physically detained and ticketed $1,200 for “contravening section 73(1) of the Public Health Act”, while peacefully expressing himself at the Alberta Legislature grounds on the afternoon of May 2, 2020.
Mr. Lefebvre and half a dozen acquaintances were peacefully rallying and expressing their concerns about the COVID shutdowns at the Alberta Legislature grounds when they were approached by two Sheriffs on bicycles. One of the Sheriffs, J. McLean, told the group, “you’re not going to be able to have your rally here.” Several members of the group, including Mr. Lefebvre, stated they were doing nothing wrong because there were less than 15 of them, which was a reference to the current public health order that restricts “gatherings” to a maximum number of 15 people.
The Sheriffs forcibly grabbed Mr. Lefebvre by the arms and took him some distance to a parked Sheriff vehicle. Mr. Lefebvre was detained by the Sheriffs for approximately 30 minutes while they questioned him, ultimately writing him a ticket for $1,200. Several people stood nearby questioning the Sheriffs’ actions, and video recorded the encounter.
Mr. Lefebvre was not told why he was detained, what he was ticketed for or whether he had breached a public health order. The ticket he was given only states that he contravened section 73(1) of the Public Health Act, which reads:
A person who contravenes this Act, the regulations, an order under section 62 or an order of a medical officer of health or physician under Part 3 is guilty of an offence.
“The Canadian Constitution protects the rights of people to assemble peacefully and to express their opinions at places such as the Legislature grounds. The Charter does not cease to protect these rights, even during a declared public health emergency,” stated Justice Centre lawyer James Kitchen. “COVID-19 has not suspended the rule of law. The Sheriffs’ actions in physically detaining and ticketing Mr. Lefebvre without cause were egregious.”
On July 24, Alberta Crown prosecutors issued a letter withdrawing the ticket against Mr. Lefebvre.
“The Justice Centre is pleased to see another tacit acknowledgment from the Crown that these tickets were issued in breach of constitutional rights,” notes Mr. Kitchen.
“Many citizens are alarmed at the government response to COVID-19 and the resulting erosion of democracy and violation of constitutional rights. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects individuals’ freedom to peacefully assemble and express their opinions, especially at important symbolic locations such as the Legislature grounds. This protection is even more vital during declared emergencies, to ensure citizen voices are heard and civil liberties preserved”, states Mr. Kitchen.