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Group of Ontario Police Officers Takes Pandemic Restrictions Charter Challenge

Group of Ontario Police Officers Takes Pandemic Restrictions Charter Challenge

A group of 19 Ontario police officers launched a constitutional challenge against the provincial and federal governments and several police chiefs, claiming that the application of sweeping health restrictions in the event of a pandemic put them at odds with their oath to uphold the charter.

Fifteen active and four retired law enforcement members – including Toronto Police Service, York Regional Police Service, Ottawa Police Service, Niagara Regional Police Service, Hamilton Police Department and RCMP – are at the origin of the civil action.

He was brought before the Superior Court of Justice against the Prime Minister, the Attorneys General of Canada and Ontario, as well as five chiefs of police.

The challenge has yet to be tested in court.

He asks for these declarations:

  • Canada’s pandemic laws “are not rational” and “have no force or effect.”
  • Lockouts, stay-at-home orders and curfews are “forms of martial law”.
  • Wearing masks, social distancing and lockdowns are “ineffective” and “not scientifically or medically based” because they are based on coronavirus cases, according to legal documents, “are 96.5% false.”

The group also wants the court to rule that religious gatherings and demonstrations are not subject to pandemic restrictions in Ontario.

The officers’ counsel is Rocco Galati, Executive Director of the Constitutional Rights Center in Toronto. He did not respond to a request for comment on Monday, but the legal challenge was detailed in a published virtual press conference April 30 on YouTube.

Officers describe the ‘division’ of the base

“My clients are so worried that they are stepping forward at their personal and reputational risk due to unwarranted, hostile and irrational retaliation,” said Galati, flanked by the Toronto Police Sgt. Julie Evans and York Regional Police Constable. Christopher Vandenbos, who are both complainants.

“Anyone who dares to speak out is ostracized and attacked, even if they do so in a civil and proper manner,” the lawyer said.

Two of the officers named in the charter challenge described simmering tension among police in some Ontario municipalities who are divided over pandemic law enforcement based on ideological lines. (Colin Butler / CBC)

Evans and Vandenbos both spoke at the press conference about the simmering tension between police officers in some ideologically divided municipalities – with those who believe the pandemic measures contradict their oaths to peace officers disagree with officers who do not have this belief.

“The divide that we are seeing is very visible,” said Vandenbos.

The court’s request says police supervisors are pressuring frontline officers to enforce what Galati has called “general orders” regarding the wearing of masks, physical distance and the limits of public gatherings.

In fact, Evans and his colleague from the Toronto police, Sgt. Greg Boltyansky, also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, is under investigation by the professional standards branch of the city’s law enforcement agency for allegedly attending a public rally that contravenes Ontario’s reopening law.

WATCH | Police respond to a large rally at the church in Aylmer, Ontario:

Investigators are watching this video circulating on social media to see if two Toronto police officers were among four accused of violating health restrictions during a pandemic at a church in Aylmer, Ont. 3:48

The investigation was opened following reports that they were among four people indicted by the Aylmer Police Department as part of a mass rally at the Church of God in Aylmer, a congregation of the southwestern Ontario known for its rebellious stance against coronavirus restrictions.

Evans and Boltyansky were reportedly on leave as they were captured on video taken in the church parking lot on the night of April 20. The two accused local police of breaking their constitutional oath by enforcing provincial pandemic laws.

“Many of those policemen who take it for themselves to barricade and place a military line between a church and the street and to enter churches out of the blue, without a search warrant, on private property restricting parishioners, violate Criminal Code 176, “Galati said, referring to the section that says stopping or interfering with a religious gathering is a crime.

“Why? Because they are inspired by stupid politicians and supervisors.”

The challenge argues that the restrictions are too broad

Galati said officers’ discretion is being undermined, hijacked and in some cases suppressed by politicians and police supervisors who require frontline officers to apply pandemic restrictions that are too vague and too broad, especially when it comes to face-to-face social gatherings, community prayer. or protests.

“How do you make sure the gathering is social? How do you figure out the numbers without calculating the space?”

“There are people like Doug Ford who speak for themselves and are wrong about the regulations,” he said of the Prime Minister. “Then there are a lot of police officers who get their clues, not by reading the regulations, unfortunately, but actually politicians and supervisors who pass the law as they see it.”

Image from video showing a man detained and beaten by police in the Plateau district of Montreal. (Submitted by Leigh O’Brien)

The court challenge comes two weeks after the Ontario government extended and broadened its pandemic home support order to curb rising cases and hospitalizations.

The order included sweeping new police powers that the province downgraded after a backlash from police who refused to arrest random people to ask if travel outside their homes was essential.

While the police have checked their own power in some cases, Galati said police are going too far. In Calgary, an officer used a stun gun on a 21-year-old man skating on a community rink; in Montreal, a man was detained and hit on the head by police in a suburban park, he cited as an example.

Both instances were captured on video and shared widely on social media.

“They are abusing their authority,” Galati said of the two incidents. “They attack the citizens”.

Ontario has served notice of action, says AG

No date has been set for the constitutional case to be referred to court and it is not known whether a judge will allow it to continue.

On Monday, the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General told CBC News that the province received a notice of the request on April 29, is reviewing it and “will respond in due course.”

“As this matter is the subject of litigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further,” a spokesperson for the ministry said in an email.

This is the second time in a year that Galati has represented clients filing a constitutional challenge to government responses to the pandemic.

In August last year, he announced action by Vaccine Choice Canada, against the governments of Canada and Ontario, the city of Toronto, senior politicians, a number of Ontario health authorities. , health officials and the CRS about their response to the pandemic.

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