Federal government changes its quarantine policy in response to court proceedings

TORONTO:  In response to the Justice Centre legal action in the Federal Court of Canada challenging the constitutionality of the quarantine hotels and quarantine facilities, the Federal Government has changed its policy, and now states that all individuals being directed to a quarantine facility have the right to access legal counsel without delay.

This change of policy comes after the Justice Centre’s legal arguments were presented to Federal Court that Canadians being detained and forced to go to a quarantine facility should be advised of their Charter right to speak to a lawyer immediately, before being taken to a quarantine facility. The Justice Centre’s court action arose because individuals like Pastor Nicole Mathis were being taken to quarantine facilities under the threat of arrest, hefty fines and imprisonment, without being given the opportunity to speak to a lawyer first and discuss their options.

The court heard this case June 1 – 3, 2021. With respect to Pastor Mathis the Court found: “As to the second violation, border control officials will now be aware that they must clearly communicate the right to retain and instruct counsel in a manner that is readily understood, at the outset of the detention.” (Para 303 of the Judgement).

The Federal Government’s website now has a section on the right to speak to counsel, advising people that they have a right to speak to counsel before they are directed to a quarantine facility.

“The right to speak to a lawyer is one our most fundamental Charter rights, and we welcome the Federal Government’s change in policy. Canadians need to be informed of their rights and cannot be detained without access to legal counsel,” says Sayeh Hassan, Justice Centre Staff Lawyer.

“We look forward to the Federal Court of Appeal addressing other Charter issues in our court action,” adds Ms. Hassan.

“Not all Canadians understand their right to a lawyer when they are facing potential legal consequences. We are glad that the Federal Court of Canada agreed that this right ought to be protected in the situation of the quarantine facilities,” concludes Henna Parmar, Justice Centre Staff Lawyer and co-counsel on the federal litigation.