Government lawyers argue that lifting of Netherlands travel ban will lead to ‘freedom’ and ‘death’

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Lawyers for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador have taken the rhetoric to a revolutionary level in the court challenge of the province’s COVID-19 travel restrictions, submitting a brief with a famous quote in its opening line.“In 1775, the American revolutionary Patrick Henry declared: ‘Give me freedom or give me death’. In that case, if the plaintiffs’ remedy is granted, both will result, ”reads the brief, filed on July 13 for a hearing that began Tuesday at the Supreme Court in St. John’s.

Lawyers for the province say the stakes are too high to overturn the travel ban on foreigners entering Newfoundland and Labrador. They also oppose an advocacy group, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which is trying to get into the fray and make its own arguments against the ban.

The CCLA, represented by local lawyer Rosellen Sullivan, is seeking legal status in the courtroom this week as Halifax resident Kim Taylor presents her opposition.

Kim Taylor, a Nova Scotian, is at the heart of the legal challenge. She was denied an exemption to enter the province after the death of her mother. (CBC)

Taylor, born in Newfoundland and Labrador, was refused entry to the province in May after the sudden death of her mother.

Taylor is not represented by CCLA, but Sullivan said the group is trying to join the challenge and expand the fight beyond the reach of a despised traveler.

If the CCLA does not obtain standing, it cannot present its case – which would include a debate on whether the police should be allowed to deport someone from the province if it is believed that she is there without permission.

“It’s unconstitutional because there is no judicial review,” Sullivan said. “I think it engages all of these Charter rights. Searches and seizures, detention, all. ”

Newfoundland and Labrador passed special measures under the Public Health Protection and Promotion Act at the onset of the pandemic, giving the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the final say on a certain number of questions in the province. It also gave the police increased powers to search, seize, detain and deny people entry into the province.

Lawyer Rosellen Sullivan is seeking to run as a candidate on behalf of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s fight to overturn travel restrictions in Newfoundland and Labrador. (CBC)

Until the opening of the Atlantic bubble, no traveler was allowed to enter the province without exemptions. Counsel for Taylor and the CCLA argued that the exemptions were without merit or basis in law and that the travel ban violated section 6 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which allows Canadians to move freely in the interior of the country.

Lawyers in the province are taking a strong stand against the possibility of declaring the special measures unconstitutional.

“The province maintains that the COVID-19 pandemic is a fluid and rapidly evolving public health situation. [the special measures orders] were to be immediately canceled, the safety of residents of the province could be affected, ”the brief read.

A Supreme Court judge will now have to rule on whether the CCLA has standing or not. Legal proceedings are expected to continue until Friday.

Another action for damages

Although Taylor’s case was later reconsidered and she obtained an exemption from provincial authorities, she said the decision came too late.

The case does not seek damages, but a declaration that the measures are unconstitutional, Sullivan said.

Taylor said the court challenge involved other people avoiding the same experience.

Another developing case, meanwhile, seeks damages related to the travel ban.

A proposed class action lawsuit filed in June on behalf of non-residents who own property in the province challenged the ban, arguing it violates Charter mobility rights.

He also argues that the government was negligent in introducing the ban because it should have known that the law was unconstitutional and would cause harm to those involved.

Learn more about CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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