Department Store Files Judicial Review Seeking to Ease Restrictions on ‘Non-Essential’ Retailers

December 10, 2020 Updated: December 11, 2020

Hudson’s Bay Co., the oldest company in North America, has filed a judicial review seeking to ease the restrictions on “non-essential” retail in Toronto and Peel regions.

A judicial review is a legal process by which the court examines government decisions, to ensure that they are fair and reasonable. The company filed an application to the Ontario Superior Court on Dec. 10, calling the lockdowns “irrational,” “arbitrary,” and “devoid of logic and consistency,” reported The Globe and Mail.

“The Ontario Government’s health data shows that retail shoppers are not contributing to COVID-19 spread in any significant way,” the company wrote in a public statement.

“On behalf of thousands of large and small retailers in Toronto and Peel, we have been left with no choice but to ask the Court to recognize the unfairness of the current situation and the need for a fair and evidence-based solution that puts health and safety first and doesn’t jeopardize the livelihoods of thousands of retail workers, or the future of many businesses.”

Hudson’s Bay is asking the court to either iron out the lockdown regulations that allows exempted retailers to sell “non-essential” goods, or to include department stores in the list of essential retailers. The company runs department stores that operate in 88 full-line locations in North America.

The retailer owns 12 department stores in Toronto and Peel regions, where it employs 3,277 people. During typical years, these stores make up to 15 to 20 percent of the company’s annual sales in the month of December alone. Since the new lockdown took effect, the retailer has temporarily laid off 28 percent of its employees and cut back hours on 52 percent of part-time workers.

On Nov. 23, the Ontario government shut down all retailers considered non-essential, while big box stores, such as Costco and Walmart, which sell “essential” items, are allowed to open with a 50 percent capacity. Hudson’s Bay stated that this “would bring “disproportionate harm” to retailers not included in the essential category.

“Quite simply, the lockdown is having the effect of giving retailers who are permitted to remain open a source of additional revenue they would not normally have, at the expense of HBC and other retailers, large and small, who cannot open,” the application wrote. “It is also increasing the risk of infections by crowding a smaller number of stores with a much expanded customer base—during the busiest shopping season of the year.”

On Dec. 1, Hudson’s Bay and 46 other retailers signed an open letter urging Premier Doug Ford and his government to open all retail in Ontario. In return, they asked for a 25 percent capacity limit on “non-essential” retail in lockdown regions. They said that this measure would “put fewer people in more stores” and can better keep shoppers safe.

Ford had rejected the idea, saying that he had to follow the advice of the chief medical officer in a Dec. 2 press briefing.

Ontario has reported 1,983 new cases of COVID-19 infections cases on Dec. 10, the highest single-day increase since the crisis began. The province has logged a total of 134,783 cases, and 3,871 deaths as of Dec. 10. COVID-19 is the disease the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus causes.