A lawyer representing two plaintiffs challenging the federal travel vaccination mandate said in an Ottawa court on Sept. 21 that the issue is not moot — as the attorney general has previously argued in court — since the government federal government could reinstate the measure at any time.
“The warrants are not a relic of the pandemic past,” said attorney Sam Presvelos, who represents businessmen Karl Harrison and Shaun Rickard.
Presvelos argued that the attorney general had not submitted any evidence that the warrants would not be reimposed.
After the Liberal government lifted the vaccine warrants on June 20, the attorney general filed a motion to have four lawsuits against the warrant declared moot and dismissed.
Judge Jocelyne Gagné hears the arguments of the Attorney General and the plaintiffs in Ottawa.
Justice Canada’s senior general counsel, J. Sanderson Graham, said the Federal Court should not hear the case because the interim orders that implemented the warrant are no longer in effect and do not exist in as law.
Graham said the petitioners’ rights are unaffected since the warrants were revoked and they have already been given the “only appropriate remedy available”, after being retuned to travel.
Graham also warned the court against an “unnecessary” constitutional declaration which he said could have a “deleterious” effect on future cases.
When the government announced that vaccination mandates would be lifted on June 14, its statement stressed that the measure was suspended and could be reinstated if deemed necessary.
Graham argued that such statements for the media have no legal value.
Presvelos pushed back on that claim, saying the concept had been communicated by cabinet ministers and should not be dismissed.
These words cannot be “trivialized” because they do not come from a lawyer, Presvelos said.
Presvelos also referred to a now partially declassified briefing that was provided to the cabinet in June before it made the decision to lift the warrants, which states that the warrants would only be “temporarily” suspended and brought back in the fall with a “update”. » Vaccination requirement if « the health conditions justify it ».
Presvelos said the court had to consider the constitutional implications of the case, because the mandatory vaccination program meant that Canadians who chose to assert the Charter right to bodily autonomy had to give up their right to mobility, while those who respected the mandate traded bodily autonomy for mobility.
This conflict should not be allowed in a constitutional democracy, Presvelos said.
Other candidates challenging the travel mandate include People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier, former Newfoundland premier Brian Peckford and Quebec lawyer Nabil Belkacem.
The court proceedings have shed light on the inner workings of the vaccination mandates, government officials behind the policy testifying, as well as public health officials.
Evidence so far has suggested the government has limited data on transmission of the virus in flight and assesses the risk of transmission as low, and has very little data on the impact of vaccination in transport.
Although ministers said all decisions behind the warrants were guided by scientific and public health advice, the official who drafted the policy on travel warrants said she could not recall ever receiving a recommendation direct for a vaccine warrant from Health Canada.