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Commentary

Time to Sell Your Stocks in Lego?

Tue, May 26, 2020   |   Author: Peter Vogel   |   Volume 27    Issue 21 | Share: Facebook | Twitter   

With extremely limited freedom of assembly, what is the business model for Lego going forward? Or Ikea, for that matter? OK, ok, that is a different type of assembly — but seriously, the freedom of “peaceful assembly”, guaranteed in the Charter, has been taken from us. How long before we get it back?

Many Canadians are concerned that restoring freedom of assembly will lead to a sudden spike in COVID-19 infections — and this is entirely possible — but other questions also need to be asked and answered. For instance, is it legal and right for Provincial Governments to limit the Charter Rights of Canadians in the way that they have been?

Legally, the case might seem to be clear-cut for everyone — but probably in opposite ways; some see the mandate of Provincial governments to protect the “public health” as paramount and other considerations must take a back seat. Others see Charter Rights as paramount and the restrictions placed on these as being unconstitutional. These contrary points of view have been in action at public protests and counter-protests. Ultimately, these priorities will need to have their day (or month, or year) in court to determine what the reasonable limits of our rights actually are in the case of a pandemic.

The freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, and conscience and religion are of particular concern. Most churches have not been meeting in the usual way for over two months now, and are not allowed to open despite these freedoms being specifically listed as “Fundamental Freedoms” in the first part of the Canadian Charter.

Are the restrictions necessary for the public good? The answer depends on whom you ask. Most provincial governments are trusting certain health experts (but not even all health experts agree). Economists and business owners also offer their own opinions. But are provinces and the federal government consulting church leaders and trusting them to act responsibly within a framework of freedom (as Donald Trump has)? No, they have not. We need to be talking to the local members of our provincial governments about this. Remember, these governments are trusting grocery stores to deal with many more people on a near-daily basis than most churches would deal with for just one day every week. Are grocery store workers that much more reliable than pastors and priests?

Unfortunately, it seems that our provincial governments are not nearly as concerned about the spiritual health of the people as their physical health. Or if they are concerned, they are not showing it, because they have given little freedom for churches to function in any way close to normal. As an example, many churches have large spaces for worship services which could accommodate many people even if each person had to sit six feet away from anyone else; but are governments saying: “we must have this six-foot protocol, but we want to give you as much freedom of worship as possible within this framework”? No, the closest we have seen is that drive-in services are now officially allowed in several provinces.

There is another Charter-guaranteed freedom that could be argued to show that the restrictions we are facing are unconstitutional, and this one is most interesting: “Security of Person”. It is listed as a “Legal Right” in the Charter, and it has been used in a most extraordinary way in the past that might also apply to our present circumstance.

The Supreme Court of Canada justified allowing euthanasia on the grounds that not allowing it violated the idea of (among other things) “security of person”. Yes, seriously, the main grounds were that your right to “life, liberty and security of person” was being violated if you were not allowed to kill yourself (if death is reasonably foreseeable)! With that in mind, wouldn’t the courts also rule that every person has the right to expose himself or herself to the possibility of infection? Yes, this seems to be an argument to the absurd, but it is based on a decision* by real judges, most of whom are still active.

Future court decisions may reveal that many of the restrictions placed on citizens during this pandemic were, in fact, unconstitutional. Those who would go to court to test the limits of these government restrictions must be prepared for a long and expensive trial — and with an outcome far from certain.

The powers of provinces to curtail Charter Rights are being put to the test. Please speak out on the side of freedom, while acting with responsibility and concern for your neighbour.

Speak to your church leaders and encourage them to petition your province to allow for the “peaceful assembly” of churches. The outcry from churches, both individual members and clergy, should be stronger. Do you think that casinos are quietly waiting and hoping to reopen? Not at all. Will they re-open before churches? Hopefully not. And what does it say about our priorities as a society that most abortion clinics, liquor stores, and pot shops were never forced to close during the pandemic?

Use the freedoms that you still have to call for the restoration of the freedom to assemble for corporate worship — both for yourself and others. Do this respectfully, but firmly and persistently. Now is not the time to exercise your right to remain silent.

You still have freedom of association to join CHP, and you can do it online without any physical distancing to worry about! Please do so at CHP.ca!

*(Carter v. Canada)



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