REGINA: The Justice Centre has written to Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, urging him to reject fear mongering and broad lockdown measures and rather focus on protecting the vulnerable. The fundamental freedoms of Saskatchewanians continue to be violated by various lockdown measures that are still in place, and a number of doctors have written to the Premier urging even more restrictive measures despite only 31 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in all of Saskatchewan since March 2020, in the context of 9,500 annual deaths in Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab has recently imposed strict restrictions on all Saskatchewan residents, including restricting private gatherings to 10 or less people, and indoor and outdoor public gatherings to no more than 30 people. Further, Premier Scott Moe is publicly contemplating imposing further violations of Charter freedoms to move, travel, assemble, associate and worship.
Earlier this year, based on wildly inaccurate modelling, the Saskatchewan Government pre-emptively cancelled thousands of medically necessary but non-emergency “elective” surgeries, leaving hospitals almost empty in order to meet an overwhelming wave of COVID patients that never arrived. The government forcibly closed “non-essential” businesses, causing economic disaster and leaving business owners to try and survive the lockdown, due to demonstrably inaccurate predictions of thousands of lost lives to COVID.
As explained in the Justice Centre’s report, The Unjustified Persistence of Lockdowns: A Charter Analysis of Saskatchewan’s Response to COVID-19, released September 14, 2020, the predictions of Dr. Neil Ferguson, who claimed in March that millions of people would die of COVID-19, have been thoroughly discredited. The claims made in March and April, that COVID-19 threatens children, youth and healthy adults, have also been disproven. In particular, Dr. Shahab claimed incorrectly that COVID-19 does not discriminate according to age and pre-existing conditions.
However, in a November 10, 2020 letter to Premier Scott Moe, Minister of Health Merriman and Dr. Shahab, some anonymous, unnamed doctors advocated for further and more extreme violations of Charter freedoms. These doctors speak of the growth in “cases” and of overburdened hospital capacity, but fail to mention the relevant context. More than 9,500 Saskatchewanians die each year and more than 9,400 have passed away from causes other than COVID-19. The 31 COVID-19 deaths in the last 8 months make up one-third of 1% of annual deaths in Saskatchewan.
The doctors state in their letter that hospitalizations and ICU admissions have greatly increased, yet fail to mention that on November 12 only 62 COVID-19 patients were in hospital, and only 16 in ICU, in the context of 2,400 hospital beds with a surge capacity of up to 3,180 beds in Saskatchewan. The doctors are treating it like a crisis when the government’s own data reveals that COVID-19 patients are currently using less than 2% of Saskatchewan’s hospital bed capacity. As announced by Premier Moe’s government in April, ICU capacity can be expanded to 963 beds; currently COVID-19 patients are using less than 2% of this total ICU capacity.
Still, these doctors warn of supposedly catastrophic consequences unless the Saskatchewan government uses “sufficient force” to control the virus. They have encouraged the Premier to follow the example of countries such as Australia, which imposed some of the toughest COVID-19 restrictions in the world for more than three months. In Melbourne, residents endured a night-time curfew, a one-hour limit on outdoor exercise, and a ban on travelling more than 5 kilometres from their home. David Andrews, the Premier of the state of Victoria, said back in August 2020 that “there is literally no reason for you to leave your home.” The military was deployed to enforce COVID-19 restrictions and police smashed car windows of non-compliant citizens.
“It is very concerning to see members of our health profession advocate an Australian-style lockdown and urge ‘sufficient force’. This sort of totalitarian control is not welcome or acceptable in a free and democratic country,” states John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre.
“The Saskatchewan government’s own data indicates that the doctors’ open letter is unwarranted fear mongering over COVID-19,” says Carpay. “Increased COVID-19 cases do not necessarily mean sickness or deaths. There are serious negative health consequences from government lockdowns, by way of deaths from cancelled surgeries, delayed cancer diagnoses, drug overdoses, and suicides.”
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms places the onus on government to show that lockdown measures have, in fact, saved more lives than the number of lives which lockdown measures have destroyed. The Charter does not place any burden on citizens to prove that lockdowns do more harm than good.
“Rather than locking down society and the economy with measures that clearly violate our most fundamental Charter freedoms,” explains Carpay, “the Saskatchewan government should instead protect the vulnerable, and remove the remaining Charter-violating policies that continue to harm the healthy majority of Saskatchewan’s society and economy.”