BCCLA goes to court against Alberta legislation giving government sweeping new powers

THE BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) on Monday announced that it is applying to intervene before the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench in a case challenging the constitutionality of changes enacted by Alberta’s Bill 10, the Public Health (Emergency Powers) Amendment Act. The undemocratic bill allows cabinet ministers to unilaterally write new laws without any oversight from the Legislative Assembly.

The Albertan government claims that these sweeping powers are necessary to allow the government to respond quickly to the COVID-19 health crisis. However, Alberta’s Public Health Act already gives broad legal powers to the government, for example, the power to force quarantines and order physical distancing, said the BCCLA.

Grace Pastine, Litigation Director for the BCCLA, stated: “Civil liberties are often imperiled in times of fear and uncertainty. The ink was barely dry on Bill 10 when government ministers in Alberta starting rushing to decree new laws without any legislative debate or oversight. Some of these changes are the types of orders you might expect during a health crisis – such as mandating stricter quarantine requirements. Others seem more opportunistic, such as granting industry a blanket suspension on environmental reporting requirements. Still others raise serious civil liberties and privacy concerns – such as the order that allows police to access the private COVID-19 test results of people they’ve had contact with.

“The BCCLA is going to court because government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic should be rooted in science and public health needs and no more intrusive on civil liberties and human rights than absolutely necessary – this dangerous legislation doesn’t fit the bill.”

As one of Canada’s oldest and largest non-profit civil liberties groups in Canada, the BCCLA has a longstanding, genuine, and continuing concern for the rights of citizens to meaningfully engage in the democratic process and hold their governments accountable.

The BCCLA seeks leave to intervene in this case to argue that the Bill 10 violates numerous features of Canada’s constitution and system of government. Even during a pandemic, the Alberta government remains bound by the constitution.

The BCCLA is represented by Perry Mack and Elena Semenova of Peacock Linder Halt & Mack LLP.

Read the BCCLA’s application seeking leave to intervene here.