Last Living Signatory to Canada’s Charter of Rights Takes Trudeau Gov’t to Court Over Vax Mandates
17:18 GMT 04.02.2022 (Updated: 19:00 GMT 04.02.2022)
Police across Canada are bracing for a fresh bout of trucker-led protests against Covid-19 vaccination mandates and other pandemic restrictions on the weekend. Tens of thousands of truckers and their supporters descended on Ottawa last week, with tens of thousands more holding smaller gatherings across the nation, from Vancouver to Halifax.
Brian Peckford, the former Newfoundland premier who helped draft Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 under Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, is suing the federal government headed by Trudeau’s son Justin, arguing that its vaccine mandates for air travel are unconstitutional.
Peckford, 79, joined five other applicants in a case filed with the Federal Court against Canada’s minister of transport and the attorney general.
The federal government put the restrictions in place last October.
“The Decision implements restrictions on Canadians that are not related to a ‘significant risk, direct or indirect, to aviation safety or the safety of the public’ and are [beyond the powers of] the authority of the Aeronautics Act. The Decision, with limited exceptions, effectively bans Canadians who have chosen not to receive an experimental medical treatment from domestic and international travel by airplane. The result is discrimination and a gross violation of the constitutionally protected rights of Canadians, as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” the lawsuit argues.
Applicants allege that the mandate was “created and promulgated in a manner, means and in a form which is incorrect, unreasonable, an impermissible sub-delegation of authority, tainted by preconceived notions and consideration of extraneous and irrelevant factors, lacking in natural justice.”
They further argue that the federal regulations on vaccinations for air travel breach Charter rights relating to the freedom of conscience, freedom of mobility, the right to “life, liberty and security of the person,” the right to “be secure against unreasonable search or seizure,” and equal rights and protections before the law.
Peckford spoke to a crowd of about 5,000 protesters before the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia in Victoria last Saturday, explaining why the lawsuit is targeting air travel restrictions specifically.
“You just can’t go to court and say generally ‘you’re violating my rights.’ You’ve gotta pick one. You gotta pick one and argue that one…Well, what one could we pick that would apply to all Canadians? Mobility rights. The ban on travel, because that affects every Canadian from coast to coast to coast. Every Canadian is affected by the travel ban,” he said.
“We’re not going to allow this nation on the northern part of North America to go down the drain because we have people who’ve gotten hungry for power and have discarded the individual freedoms that you and I own. They are ours,” Peckford stressed.
Speaking to Canadian media, Peckford has elaborated that the rights and freedoms outlined in the Charter can only be subjected to “such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”
“It was never meant to be used in this kind of circumstance. It was meant for very serious circumstances, like if the state was in peril, war or insurrection where 99 percent of people recover from a virus. That’s not a threat to the state,” he argued.
Peckford is a veteran politician who served as the premier of Newfoundland and head of the province’s Progressive Conservative Party between 1979 and 1989. He is the last living member among the federal and provincial leadership – including the late Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau and provincial premiers, who helped draft the 1982 Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Signed on 17 April 1982, the Constitution Act served as the final step to full Canadian sovereignty from Britain.
4 February 2022, 08:34 GMT
Peckford filed his suit together with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, an Alberta-based group that lobbied against Covid-related restrictions. The Centre argues that the air travel restrictions have made it impossible for six million unvaccinated Canadians to travel within the country or abroad for work, leisure or to visit loved ones.
Tens of thousands of long-haul truckers and their supporters travelled to Ottawa last weekend to protest the Trudeau government's vaccine mandates. The prime minister initially brushed the protesters off as a "small fringe minority," but was later moved to an undisclosed location by his security staff. He went into self-imposed isolation after contacting someone with Covid and prolonged the isolation period on Monday after announcing that he had tested positive himself.
Along with protests in Ottawa, dozens of smaller gatherings have been held across Canada over the past week in support of the truckers, who have dubbed their movement 'Freedom Convoy 2022'.
3 February 2022, 08:11 GMT