New Brunswick’s new COVID-19 measures allowing grocery stores to decide whether to give access to the unvaccinated population violates fundamental human rights, says a legal organization focused on constitutional freedoms.
On Tuesday, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom sent a warning letter (pdf) to New Brunswick’s Minister of Justice and Public Safety Hugh Flemming in regard to a “revised COVID-19 mandatory order” (pdf) he signed on Dec. 4, which the legal groups said discriminates against unvaccinated people.
The order stated that the owners and occupiers of premises where proof of vaccination is not mandatory by law are “free to choose between making proof of vaccination a requirement of entry to their premises and making distancing mandatory in their premises.”
The Justice Centre said this paragraph has raised “growing and significant concern” across Canada as it potentially includes grocery stores as a premise at which “the Government is inviting the option of proof of vaccination.”
“An invitation to the private sector to consider such egregious discriminatory practices triggers historic Charter violations,” Andre Memauri, staff lawyer at the Justice Centre, said in a news release.
“Potentially depriving citizens of food constitutes an act of cruelty. It is discriminatory, unconstitutional, and likely an offence under international law. No one should be barred from the ability to purchase food to feed their family.”
The Justice Centre said that the right to food is a fundamental human right enshrined in various international documents, including Article 25 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.
The group also noted that the possibility of groceries requiring proof of vaccination was “inconspicuously” excluded from the New Brunswick government website in regard to its new COVID-19 “Winter Action Plan.”
The plan went into effect on Dec. 4, amid what New Brunswick’s Health Minister Dorothy Shephard described as a “very concerning” increase in the province’s infection rate over the past two weeks.
The Winter Action Plan comes with a three-level alert system. All areas of the province are now within range of Level 1, which requires proof of vaccination for indoor dining and entrance to businesses and retails.
Discriminating Against People of Faith
The Justice Centre also said in the letter sent to the N.B. Public Safety minister that his order discriminates against people of all faith who attend funerals, weddings, and social gatherings by requiring the owners and occupiers of the premises “to ensure at every indoor faith gathering that every person in the venue is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”
The order noted that this requirement does apply to the list of non-faith establishments, where testing is permitted as an alternative. The settings include festivals, pubs and bars, nightclubs, amusement centres, pool halls, bowling alleys and casinos, organized group recreational sports, and gatherings held indoors.
“This is an unconscionable violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and it has no scientific or legal justification,” Memauri said. “Vaccine-free New Brunswickers who are grieving the loss of a family member cannot attend a funeral but are permitted into a pool hall with a negative test.”
“Canada is better than this.”