VANCOUVER — A controversial Alberta-based legal advocacy organization says it plans to file a court challenge to B.C.’s vaccine cards.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which last week announced it was planning to take the Ontario government to court over that province’s plan to introduce a vaccine card, says it will file its next constitutional challenge in B.C. Supreme Court.
“I’m sure it’s not going to come as a surprise that we expect a lot of people to sue, so the Justice Centre is not going to be the only lawsuit over this,” said Jay Cameron, litigation director of the centre.
B.C.’s vaccine card, which the provincial government says will allow vaccinated people to conveniently and securely show their proof of vaccination at higher-risk social and recreational events, goes into effect Monday.
You will need to produce the cards for such things as dining out at a restaurant, working out at the gym, or attending a ticketed sporting event.
With the province in the midst of a fourth COVID wave fuelled by the Delta variant, officials say that the vaccines work and getting vaccinated is a significant step toward economic recovery.
They have repeatedly cited statistics showing that the surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is primarily within groups of unvaccinated people.
However, there have been a number of protests against the new card, including recent demonstrations outside Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and in Victoria.
Cameron said there are a number of reasons why the Justice Centre is proceeding with its lawsuit, including the impact the regulations have on the choice that people have over their bodily autonomy.
He claimed that the B.C. government was not permitting anyone to have a conversation over the rights issues that have arisen.
“They’re imposing this unilaterally and dividing society so you have vaccination apartheid in B.C.,” said the Calgary lawyer. “That’s what’s being proposed. The people who don’t go along to get along are going to be vilified by the government and the media, and then they’re going to be persecuted. They’re going to be prevented from participating in society on the basis of a shot, this shot.”
It is not the first foray into the courts over COVID-19 related issues by the Justice Centre.
Earlier this year, the organization represented an Alberta pastor who was jailed for violating public health orders.
They announced that they were representing People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier after he was arrested by police in Manitoba in June for allegedly violating COVID orders.
President and founder John Carpay was forced to apologize earlier this summer for retaining a private investigator to conduct surveillance on senior government officials, including the Chief Justice of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench, in regard to their compliance with COVID regulations.
The case related to the Justice Centre’s representation of churches challenging COVID orders.
Carpay, who claimed that he was not intending to influence the judge, went on leave but has since returned to the organization. An investigation into the matter by the Winnipeg police is ongoing.
Arthur Grant, a Vancouver lawyer and constitutional law expert, said he was “sitting on the fence” as to whether the Justice Centre’s lawsuit might succeed, but added that there are a number of factors to consider.
“One thing I do know is that the courts will be more deferential to the government in a time of a crisis-type situation than in normal times,” he said. “We’re not sitting in normal times right now, so they would have to have a very pressing case to be successful.”