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Bill 66: Repeal of unconstitutional Bill 10 but expansion of Chief Medical Officer powers

CALGARY: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms can confirm that, if enacted, Bill 66: Public Health Amendment Act, 2021 (“Bill 66”), will repeal select provisions of the Public Health Act that are part of existing legal challenges and that have been the subject of broad public concern and outcry. The challenged provisions were created by Bill 10, and transferred broad and unilateral legislative authority to UCP Health Minister Tyler Shandro. Bill 66 was introduced in the Legislature on April 12, 2021 and is currently in the process of Second Reading.

However, the Justice Centre remains concerned about the remaining authoritarian so-called “emergency” powers remaining in the Public Health Act, as well as the failure of the Alberta government to place sufficient democratic checks on the enormous power of the Chief Medical Officer of Health. Bill 66 also increases the power of executive officers to issue orders, and increases the statute of limitations for the prosecution of “health order” offences.

The Justice Centre is pleased that section 38(1)(c) of the Public Health Act, which mandates forced immunizations on Albertans and was being challenged as a Charter violation in an ongoing legal action challenging the CMOH Orders in Alberta, is to be repealed in the proposed Bill 66.

However, many provisions of Bill 66 remain of concern to the Justice Centre. The substantial individual penalties created by Minister Shandro’s Bill 10 (up to $100,000 for a first offence and $500,000 for subsequent offences) for violating the Public Health Act, another Bill 10 addition, will remain.

Bill 66 also:

  • Fails to place checks on the power of the Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the current Chief Medical Officer of Health. Instead, Bill 66 expands her already undemocratic and authoritarian powers;

  • Fails to restrict the power of the CMOH to only exercising authority during a declared public health emergency;

  • Fails to require Dr. Hinshaw to provide regular reports to the Legislature containing the science and impact of her society-crippling orders;

  • Allows Dr. Hinshaw to issue orders outside of a declared public health emergency, including orders which have no expiration;

  • Legally “validates” the existing CMOH orders made over the past thirteen months. This kind of retroactive law-making suggests the government is itself uncertain that previous CMOH Orders are legally and constitutionally valid;

  • Extends the powers of health officers to issue written orders, which can include requiring the closure of a place, based on a report or test with no inspection of a place needed. Existing law already allows extensive powers to inspect a public or private place, and issue orders requiring a place to vacated, closed, or require destruction of anything. An order like this could be issued based on inspection of the place to see if regulations were complied with. Under Bill 66, a written order can be made concerning a place based on a “test” or “report”, without an inspection. The words “test” and “report” are undefined;

  • Introduces a provision to allow the government to collect “expenses” related to the enforcement of a health order, including legal fees, from someone who is the subject of a health order;

  • Expands the statute of limitations so that it is possible to prosecute someone for a “health offence” for up to three years;

  • Rejects the recommendations of the October 2020 Public Health Act Select Special Committee report to limit restrictions created under the Act during a public health emergency to the extent the restrictions are reasonably necessary, and to amend the Act so an individual subject to an order made during a public health emergency could apply to the court on an urgent basis for review.

“Albertans ought to be wary of Bill 66”, states Jay Cameron, Justice Centre Litigation Director. “While Bill 66 repeals some of Bill 10’s worst faults, such as the delegation of law making power to individual ministers and a provision allowing forced immunization of the populace, it also expands the authoritarian powers of the CMOH and fails to require Dr. Hinshaw or her successors to meaningfully account to the Alberta legislature. A review of Bill 66 shows that the Alberta government intends to further abandon the citizens to the arbitrary rule of one unelected official.

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