Pandemic Power Play

Commentary, Civil Liberties, Leighton Grey

In 1933, the Nazi Party held a thin grasp upon power in Germany.  Although narrowly elected, it held majority through its coalition partner, the German National People’s Party.   Does this sound eerily familiar? They were nonetheless able to enact the “Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the State”.  It granted the Nazis extraordinary executive powers over a period of four years, including:  the ability to create laws, decrees, and even treaties with other countries; the ability to pass laws which deviated from the Weimar Constitution; the ability to nationalize industry, seize private property, and impose taxation.  Neither any house committee or the German regional states had the right to control or abolish these laws.  Shortly after this law was enacted, the German Parliament or Reichstag was razed to the ground, Hitler blamed the communists, a state of emergency reigned, and the rest, as we know, is history.  Even after two years under the thumb of an oppressive mediocracy, many Canadians were recently astonished and horrified to learn that equivalent Canadian legislation exists, that the Trudeau Government has unjustifiably invoked its use, and that the estimable Finance Minister now has the power to seize private bank accounts.

The Emergencies Act was passed in 1988 as a redefinition of the War Measures Act, which Justin Trudeau’s father once famously invoked in 1970, during the FLQ Hostage Crisis (“just watch me”).  Section 30 of the Emergencies Act looks an awful lot like its Nazi cousin, and includes control or regulation of any specified industry or service; appropriation, control, forfeiture and disposition of property or services; authorization of entry onto, search and seizure of any dwelling house or other premises; regulation of travel outside of Canada by citizens or permanent residences (which the Liberals have already done); removal of persons from Canada who are not citizens or permanent residents; control and regulation of international aspects of specified financial activities within Canada; broad emergency spending powers; authorization of any Minister of the Crown to discharge specified responsibilities or to take actions of a political, diplomatic or economic nature for dealing with the emergency (Freeland?); and imposition of criminal consequences for interference with the exercise of any such powers.  This legislation can only be triggered, however, by a declaration of a public welfare emergency, and such emergency (and the resulting opportunity to use these extraordinary executive powers) expires after 90 days.

A cynical view of what the Liberals have done suggests that they were desperately attempting to quell the “terrorist” Freedom Convoy by invoking The Emergencies Act.  But the deeper truth may be even worse. Early in the Pandemic, the Liberals cherry picked some of the best items on the menu from s.30 of the Emergencies Act and incorporated them into a new law that would have given them ubiquitous power over the Canadian economy, without any parliamentary interference, until 2021.  This is the very definition of attempting to do indirectly what cannot be done directly.  To make matters worse, the Liberal Government sent the rest of Parliament home in the name of public health so that they would not be exposed to the risk of Covid-19 infection.  With all of the dissenting members of the House absent, the Liberals only needed a majority of their own voting members present to get this little bit of nastiness passed into law.  Fortunately, an independent news source was able to break the story.  What followed was a social media Feuersturm that brought opposition Members of Parliament scurrying back to Ottawa, at the risk of their own personal health and safety (to say nothing of the public at large) in time to cause the Liberals to at least temporarily back down from attempting such an egregious and undemocratic power grab.  Crisis averted? Hardly.

Consider for a moment how many of our civil liberties have already been abrogated or at least suspended by this Government in the name of public safety, security, or the general welfare:  mandatory quarantines under threat of prosecution and imprisonment, prohibition of operation of most businesses and forms of employment, prohibition of international travel and even inter-provincial travel, mandatory masking, school closures, social distancing regulations restricting freedom of association and our ability to gather in places of worship, exposure to arbitrary detention, searches and seizures, all without the benefit of legal advice.  Temporary closure of our Courts has even violated our s.7 right to access justice.  Then of course there is the highly controversial issue of vaccine passports that was the final straw for countless working class Canadians who either joined or otherwise supported (illegally?) the Freedom Convoy protests. Under these circumstances, can we still credibly say that we live in a free and democratic society that holds inviolable our individual human rights?  Are we still the “true north, strong & free”?

Perhaps the better question that we must all ask ourselves in the face of the current national crisis is this:  “If our society, our economy, our democracy, and indeed our way of life should survive the current public health crisis, what will be the cost to us in terms of the loss of our fundamental freedoms?”

Or, as Ayn Rand posited in Atlas Shrugged:  “Who is John Galt?”

 

Frontier senior fellow Leighton Grey Q.C. is a lawyer practicing in Alberta and B.C.   He is also a status Indian whose Great Grandfather was once the Hereditary Chief of the Carry the Kettle or Jack Band at Sintaluta, Saskatchewan.