NS Court of Appeal Agrees Government Injunction to Deter Protest Against COVID Restrictions Was Too Broad

Canadian Civil Liberties Association says injunction 'went too far'

NS Court of Appeal Agrees Government Injunction to Deter Protest Against COVID Restrictions Was Too Broad
Cara Zwibel, director of the fundamental freedoms program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and Alain Bartleman, CCLA special adviser for indigenous issues, hold a press conference concerning the Public Emergency Order Commission in Ottawa on Oct. 12, 2022. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
David Wagner

Nova Scotia's court of appeal has ruled that a special order to deter a spring 2021 protest against COVID-19 restrictions in the province was too broad and granted without transparency or adequate justification.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) had challenged the order, called an injunction, which had been sought by the provincial attorney general and granted by by the province’s court.

The group said there were already health measures in place that gave officials the power to ticket anyone violating restrictions, and the injunction created a “harsher instrument” to dissuade protesters.

Before CCLA had a chance to go to court, however, the order was cancelled—the government asked the Court to discharge the injunction, saying it was "no longer necessary.”

Even though the injunction had ended, the court heard the CCLA's appeal and delivered its verdict on Oct. 26.

"Today, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal agreed that the Gov's exceptionally broad injunction went too far. It subjected every single person in NS to unreasonable restrictions on fundamental rights in the absence of evidence that this was necessary or proportional," the CCLA tweeted after the ruling.

The group had argued that the injunction was obtained without the presence of other parties, and it should have been “rescinded or narrowed.” It notes on its website that even though the order was sought in relation to one particular protest, it "effectively barred all public protest activity and made anyone in breach of the order immediately subject to arrest for contempt of court."
“While the injunction is no longer in force in the province, we remain concerned about the circumstances that led to such a broad injunction being obtained without the Court hearing any arguments from any party other than the government," the CCLA said in a July 2021 press release.

"The order curtailed fundamental freedoms under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

The CCLA noted that the case "has taken on even greater significance" in light of the truckers' protests and blockades in February, and it was important to get the court's opinion on the the "appropriate parameters when seeking an anti-protest injunction."

Regarding the implications of the ruling, the group said in an email to The Epoch Times that "courts will be required to consider the Charter and justify why an injunction is needed."

“In the future, governments seeking injunctions that impact fundamental freedoms will be required to provide notice to those affected and an opportunity to challenge the evidence the government says justifies the injunction,” the email said.

“COVID has polarized Canadians. There are diverse and legitimate views about the correct public policy response. Where there ought to be unanimity is in the process to follow where fundamental freedoms are engaged,” CCLA added, saying that the ruling "made clear that these are mistakes that should never be repeated in Nova Scotia."