The Citizens’ Hearing took place from June 22nd to 24th, 2022 in Toronto, Canada, and marked the launch of an historic documentation of Canadians negatively impacted by government responses to COVID-19. Frontier is featuring extracts weekly.
Sam Presvelos, a corporate commercial lawyer in Toronto, spoke more as a concerned citizen. The “quarantine hotel” issue in particular alarmed him: people commanded, against their will, to stay in a hotel, struck him as a fundamental breach of democracy. He notes that our rights are not absolute, but are limited—but the problem is that the limitation stated in Section 1 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is legislatively weak and ambiguous (“1. Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”). Our rights mean the most when the threat is greatest, he emphasized. It is not reasonable to suggest that the seriousness of a “pandemic” means that our rights must kneel. The problem with the imprecision of the Charter’s Section 1…is that it is imprecise. The government must use the least restrictive measure in order to not overreach our rights.
Preston Manning said a bill that affected Canadians’ rights should have been presented to Parliament for debate—and not pushed through as an Order in Council. Presvelos says we have lost sight of who is serving whom. That travel rights, domestically, can be suspended by a single individual (Trudeau) is deeply disturbing and an indication of our problem.