A Calgary judge will issue a decision Monday afternoon after hearing an emergency application seeking an order that would nullify Alberta’s COVID-related public health requirements, including restrictions on gatherings and mandatory masks.

Lawyers for the group of plaintiffs — including two southern Alberta churches and a Calgary gym owner — say the province’s COVID-19 restrictions violate their constitutional rights.

The group wants Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Anne Kirker to issue an injunction ahead of its hearing on the constitutionality of the restrictions.

Kirker will issue her decision at 2:30 p.m. MT.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Anne Kirker heard arguments Monday from applicants who want an emergency stay of Alberta’s pandemic-related public health measures. (albertacourts.ca)

On Dec. 8, the government imposed a new set of rules in a bid to curb soaring COVID-19 infections, including the closure of all casinos and gyms, banning dine-in service at restaurants and bars and imposing a mandatory province-wide mask requirement.

The province also banned all outdoor and indoor social gatherings and imposed mandatory work-from-home measures for at least four weeks.

Government ‘cancelling Christmas’

A Calgary law firm and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms appeared in court Monday to apply for the emergency injunction staying Alberta’s public health restrictions.

In the application, Heights Baptist Church in Medicine Hat and Northside Baptist Church in Calgary, along with three individuals, argued that a number of their constitutional rights have been violated, including limiting peoples’ ability to gather for both social and religious reasons, along with travelling and conducting business or expressing themselves. 

The Justice Centre accuses the government of “cancelling Christmas” and suggests COVID-19 has not created an emergency beyond the normal scope of illness and death in the province.

Lawyers for the applicants say Albertans under the age of 60 are more likely to be murdered than die of the virus and argue lockdown measures cause “far more harm than any harm from COVID-19,” according to a press release.

Rath & Company, the law firm representing the plaintiffs, said the government is “bankrupting businesses and stripping citizens of Alberta of virtually all of their rights under the Alberta Bill of Rights and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

‘Critical point’ in COVID-19 crisis

In response to the application, government lawyer Nick Parker argued the applicants don’t meet the threshold required for an injunction and asked Kirker to “dismiss this application and dismiss it completely.”

“The cornerstone of their argument is somehow we have the tyrannical Dr. Deena Hinshaw passing laws in Alberta and democracy is being undermined,” he said.

“I would suggest that in fact what we are seeing is not tyranny and unlawful CMOH orders, what we are seeing is democracy in action in the middle of the biggest public health crises this province has seen. We are in the critical point in that crisis.”

Parker pointed to rising COVID-19 cases following Thanksgiving gatherings and argued the critical point in the crisis is Christmas.

Meanwhile, doctors say they are in day-to-day survival mode, as Calgary intensive care units stretch the surge capacity.

To date, 851 people have died of COVID-19 in Alberta. As of Sunday, there were 760 people in hospital, including 149 in intensive care. The day saw 1,286 new cases recorded, bringing the total active cases to 19,201.

On Friday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, warned that Alberta could easily see well beyond 2,000 new cases per day within a few weeks after the holidays, if Christmas proves to be “an accelerating factor.”

Vaccines have begun being administered in the province, but only health-care workers will receive doses before the new year. 

Alberta plans to vaccinate 29,000 front-line workers by the end of December.

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