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Application for judicial review of Nova Scotia's COVID-19 rules heard in Yarmouth

The Citizens Alliance of Nova Scotia is calling for a judicial review of Nova Scotia's COVID-19 rules, including the vaccine mandate. An application was heard in court in Yarmouth on Wednesday. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
The Citizens Alliance of Nova Scotia is calling for a judicial review of Nova Scotia's COVID-19 rules, including the vaccine mandate. An application was heard in court in Yarmouth on Wednesday. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

An organization alleging a vaccine mandate infringed on the rights of Nova Scotians shouldn't be able to speak on behalf of the public in a potential judicial review of the province's COVID-19 rules, said a lawyer representing Dr. Robert Strang and others.

An application by the Citizens Alliance of Nova Scotia was heard in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Yarmouth on Wednesday. The alliance calls itself a grassroots group that wants to protect the "constitutional rights and freedoms of all Nova Scotians."

Strang, the province's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Health and Wellness Minister Michelle Thompson and the attorney general are named as respondents on the application.

A vaccine mandate is beyond the authority of the chief medical officer and infringes on the Charter rights of Nova Scotians, said William Ray, who represents the alliance.

A minor referred to as J.M. is also an applicant. Ray said J.M. was prohibited from playing on a local sports team due to their vaccination status.

The vaccine mandate was in violation of Section 52 (a) of Nova Scotia's Health Protection Act, Ray argued. It states that when a public health emergency is declared, the chief medical officer can implement a voluntary immunization program.

However, Section 52 (i) of the act states that the chief medical officer can establish any measure they believe is reasonably necessary for the protection of public health during the emergency.

The Health Protection Act, and the orders made under it, ended in May 2023.

Letters sent in

Before the hearing started, Justice John Keith said up to 30 letters had been sent to the courthouse by supporters of the alliance in the week leading up to the hearing.

Keith asked Ray if the letters, which weren't signed in many cases, should be considered evidence.

It was "entirely inappropriate" for the alliance to encourage supporters to send letters to the courthouse, said Daniel Boyle, who represents Strang, Thompson and the attorney general.

Boyle said it may be appropriate for a letter-writing campaign to an elected representative, but not in a court of law.

Keith decided to disregard the letters and not enter them as evidence.

Public interesting standing

The alliance is requesting public interest standing in the review because the public health restrictions didn't affect the group directly.

Public interest standing allows individuals and organizations who don't have a personal stake to challenge certain actions taken by a government.

The group wants public interest standing to expand the scope of the review and be able to get an injunction that would prevent mandatory vaccination programs in the future, Ray said.

Keith said a court can only determine if the government didn't follow the law in the past, but questioned if he could order the government not to do things it hasn't yet done. He reserved his decision for a later date.

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