Court dismisses Victoria council candidate’s challenge of B.C.’s COVID-19 health measures

Court dismisses Victoria council candidate’s challenge of B.C.’s COVID-19 health measures
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The B.C. Supreme Court has dismissed a legal challenge of the province’s COVID-19 public health measures from a man vying for a Victoria council seat next month.

The challenge, dismissed Sept. 12 by Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson, names Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C.’s Attorney General as respondents.

All of the court petitions take aim at various aspects of the province’s COVID-19 response, from the B.C. vaccine card to capacity limits at restaurants and venues, and argue that the measures infringed on his charter rights.

Jeremy Maddock, a Victoria city council candidate running under the VIVA slate, sought to overturn two of Henry’s health orders — a variance order on Nov. 12, 2021 that allowed Henry to dismiss some reconsideration requests for proof-of-vaccination at gatherings and venues, and a Dec. 21, 2021 health order that ordered bars and nightclubs to close and limited patronage at restaurants to six people per table.

Hinkson noted that Henry received around 800 reconsideration requests related to the B.C. Vaccine Card, with the deputy public health officer saying many of those requests “were based on the applicant not agreeing with the PHO’s orders or proposing alternative measures such as rapid testing or reliance on natural immunity.”

Officials determined that having Henry process each request herself took more time and effort than she was able to provide while managing the province’s pandemic response, and said that in the interest of public health, all reconsideration requests other than those that were made on a medical deferral basis were dismissed.

Maddock argued that the decision to dismiss the requests was “unreasonable,” saying Henry did not have authority to do so, and it should be overturned.

Hinkson wrote that the nature of Maddock’s own reconsideration request “relied mostly on his own unqualified scientific opinion on transmissibility which questioned the impact of vaccination on transmissibility,” and did not examine increased risk of illness and death for unvaccinated people.

The judge found that the variance order was rational “in that it is justified, transparent and intelligible” in regards to resource allocation of public health officials’ time and effort, and dismissed Maddock’s petition.

In the constitutional challenge aimed at the restaurant closure order, Maddock argued that the decision infringed on his Charter rights — specifically section 7 which states every Canadian “has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

While Maddock was challenging the Dec. 21, 2021 closure order, he also argued that due to not receiving COVID-19 vaccinations, he did not possess a BC Vaccine Card and was therefore unable to enter restaurants to hold business meetings, effectively trying to coerce him to get vaccinated against his will.

Maddock, a law school graduate who has not been admitted to the Bar, works as a “legal consultant” and offers services to clients, the judge noted.

Hinkson found that Maddock’s alternative was to simply keep doing his job remotely or from places not impacted by the order, “of which there were many.”

“He was not under house arrest, nor unable to meet with violation ticket disputants or practising lawyers. I find that, as was found in Gateway and Taylor, the provisions of the Suspension Order do not limit the petitioner’s liberty or security,” the judge wrote in his dismissal.

Maddock is running on the controversial VIVA Victoria slate in the 2022 municipal election next month. His candidate profile notes that he seeks “liberty and justice for all” and criticizes the current local government for putting “ideology over citizens’ real-life concerns.”

Hinkson also dismissed three other challenges of B.C.’s public health orders on the same date, and in each decision found that none of the health orders impugned any of the petitioners’ Charter rights.

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