Active and retired police take Ontario government to court over COVID-19 enforcement duties

Application asks for declaration that lockdowns and stay-at-home orders “are forms of martial law

ONTARIO – Ten active and five retired police officers have launched a court challenge against the constitutionality of COVID-19 public health orders that expand law enforcement powers.

Constitutional Rights Centre Rocco Galati is representing the officers.

“Firstly, many of these regulations are not specific enough, they’re too vague and broad and aren’t clear enough to enforce uniformly and their supervisors think often wrongly what the regulations say,” Galati told reporters during a press conference Thursday. 

“The second problem, that goes to the centre of the challenge is that as the applicants see it, many of these COVID measures force these officers to breach their oath. This is an oath that includes upholding the constitution.” 

Active Toronto Police Service Officer Sgt. Julie Evans and active York Regional Police Officer Christopher Vandenbos appeared at the press conference.

“When I saw this legislation coming into play, I questioned it immediately,” said Sgt. Evans.

“There was no doubt in my mind that it was an outright breach of people’s Charter rights and freedoms. I swore an oath, I grew up and had every vision of being passionate about protecting those rights, that has never changed.”

The notice questions the legality of COVID-19 public health orders including Ontario’s state of emergency declaration, wearing masks, lockdowns, and stay at home orders.

The court application asks for a declaration that lockdowns and stay-at-home orders “are forms of martial law, the strict and exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal Parliament” as well as being “outside the province’s jurisdiction.”

The application says expansions of police powers in Ontario to stop Canadians driving outside of their home are “unconstitutional and of no force and effect” and a violation of the Charter of rights to liberty and a right to remain silent.

Earlier this month Premier Doug Ford announced new lockdown measures meant to handle the province’s growing COVID-19 crisis including the increased police powers and border checkpoints. Police agencies and constitutional rights groups immediately slammed the government for the draconian measures.

Days later Ford apologized saying his government “got it wrong.”

“I know that some of those measures, especially around enforcement, they went too far. Simply put, we got it wrong. We made a mistake.”