Some Canadian police and military officers are increasingly concerned about violating their oaths to protect the public as they enforce the COVID-19 health measures and restrictions, a Charter rights advocacy group says.
Russ Cooper, president and CEO of Canadian Citizens for Charter Rights and Freedom (C3RF), said he finds it “quite disturbing” to see members of the Canadian police forced to violate their oaths of service—whether they were taken upon the Charter or sworn to the Queen—to protect the Canadian public.
“We take an oath to uphold the Constitution and the Charter, which again, is for and on behalf of the people of Canada and not a government—not the Liberal government of Canada and not any other government that happens to form a majority rule,” said Cooper, who was also a decorated military officer now retired from the Royal Canadian Air Force.
“That oath has been broken at this point in time with these pandemic measures.”
Cooper said that while the Canadian Constitution permits the limitation of rights, there is a caveat that these limitations have to be “demonstrably justified” as necessary, which has not happened with the COVID-19 restrictions.
“We are two years into this [pandemic], and when you talk about things like justifying vaccine passports or vaccine mandates, we’ve yet to see the data that says that either one of these measures is going to fulfill the objective of helping us do away with this virus.”
The C3RF, which has a growing membership of roughly 40,000, focuses on educating Canadians about threats to their Charter rights. While the group has worked on a number of Charter rights-related issues, Cooper said the COVID-19 pandemic was “a whole new game” for the organization.
“We were concerned about individual rights being balanced away towards collectivist organizations,” he said. “Now, we’re finding that we’re just downright being squashed by these pandemic measures, which I think anybody can agree that they are draconian.”
In regards to educating the public about their Charter rights, Cooper said his organization has achieved its goals in the face of tightening public health restrictions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also noted that other similar organizations that uphold Canadians’ Charter rights and freedoms are now working together “in a more united fashion” toward that goal.
In a recent panel discussion, Cooper interviewed Erin Howard, an active police officer in Ontario and a member of C3RF’s partner organization, the Police on Guard for Thee.
Howard has expressed concerns about violating her oath to uphold the Canadian Constitution when enforcing COVID-19 measures, such as making arrests at protests, prohibiting peaceful assemblies in public and private spaces, and restricting Canadians’ mobility rights.
“In regards to these arrests at protests, mobility rights, asking people out on the street why they’re out—in lockdown—I’d say the majority of us [police officers] don’t agree,” Howard said. “We don’t feel that that is our job, and we do feel that it is a breach of the charter.”
But Howard said many “don’t feel powerful enough to necessarily stand up and say something,” though a majority of those she works with try their absolute best to avoid arresting somebody at a protest.
“We’re put in a really tough situation. It really seems like no matter what we do, we’re going to be criticized heavily.”
Police on Guard for Thee says it represents thousands of active duty and retired members of the police force that find the COVID-19 Public Health orders unconstitutional and has been actively seeking legal counsel of their constitutionality. The group has experienced an exponential growth since the introduction of the vaccine mandates, with more active-duty members joining recently, Cooper said.