Canadian Civil Liberties Association launches lawsuit against Emergencies Act

On February 17, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) announced it will pursue litigation to challenge the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act. It issued a press release which says:

“We have retained Ewa Krajewska of Henein Hutchison LLP to take the federal government to court. We have said all along that the federal government did not meet the high burden necessary to invoke the Emergencies Act,” said Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, Executive Director of the CCLA.

“This morning I listened carefully to the Prime Minister and heard no new legal justifications for a national emergency and the enormous power the government is hoping to give to itself to bypass the typical democratic process. The situation in Ottawa has been complicated, difficult and painful, in particular for marginalized communities who have experienced racial and homophobic intimidation by some. Governments already have the lawful authority to address difficult situations and do so all the time. This use of the Emergencies Act is unnecessary, unjustifiable and unconstitutional.”

“Our society needs peaceful assembly — a critical democratic tool — even though not every person agrees with the content of every movement.”

“Some protests can even be disruptive. It is possible for a gathering to be both disruptive and also peaceful and nonviolent. Disruptive protest that may be unlawful, like blocking a pipeline or occupying a public space, can also be the most effective way of raising awareness for people who do not have power,” concluded Mendelsohn Aviv.

“We do not want to minimize the impacts of the protests that are occurring across the country. But, while some of the blockades have been immensely disruptive, it is unclear that the ongoing protests ‘endanger the lives, health or safety of Canadians’ so as to rise to the threshold of a national emergency under the law,” said Abby Deshman, Director of Criminal Justice for the CCLA.

“The emergency orders that the government has tabled are not targeted. They are not limited to specific protests, or specific geographic locations. They are expansive emergency orders that have already come into effect and apply equally across the entire country. And they place unprecedented restrictions on every single Canadian’s constitutional rights.”

“The current emergency orders place significant limits on peaceful assembly across the entire country. They require financial institutions to turn over personal financial information to CSIS and the RCMP, and to freeze the bank accounts and cut off financial services provided to anyone who has attended, or who has provided assistance to those participating in, a prohibited assembly – all without judicial oversight.”

“It is in light of all these violations of civil liberties that we will be taking the government to court,” finished Deshman.

(Renewal Update, posted February 19, 2022)

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