Province decides to end protest injunction

HALIFAX: With the COVID-19 case count dwindling in Nova Scotia, Premier Iain Rankin is seeking an end to a controversial injunction that banned protests and other illegal public gatherings.

The government filed a motion last week asking the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia to lift the order. It was granted by a judge on May 14 as a move to thwart protests by Freedom Nova Scotia, a fringe group of anti-maskers and people opposed to the lockdowns.

Many civil-rights activists, lawyers, and legal experts blasted the order for giving police much broader powers and for its “ex parte” implementation, with no notice or invitation for Freedom Nova Scotia or other dissenting voices to speak.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association was challenging the government-requested injunction. Nasha Nijhawan, who took on the case pro bono, likened the situation to the totalitarian regime at the centre of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian Handmaid’s Tale.

The CCLA said last Friday that the injunction should be rescinded as soon as possible and still hopes to pursue the matter in court.

“Though the government says that it will seek to lift the injunction because it is ‘no longer necessary,’ the CCLA highlights that the injunction was never necessary or justified at law,” the group says in an emailed statement. “The fact that the government obtained this injunction to enforce a public health order on an ex parte basis, and that it impacted the Charter-protected rights of all Nova Scotians, still raises serious legal and constitutional issues.”

The CCLA says it’s seeking to have the original injunction order reconsidered at a hearing before the court on June 30, as previously scheduled, so those issues can be considered and the court is unable to impose a similar order again.

Premier Rankin said in a press release Friday that lifting the injunction doesn’t mean Nova Scotians should let down their guard.

“We are still in a state of emergency, and we must continue to respect the public health measures,” he said. “Thanks to the hard work of Nova Scotians, we are now in a much better place with the virus. Our daily case numbers are coming down, vaccination rates continue to rise and the number of Nova Scotians in hospital and the ICU are decreasing.”

In addition to banning illegal public gatherings, the injunction prohibited Freedom Nova Scotia from promoting illegal rallies on social media.

Restrictions under public health orders remain in place. That includes physical distancing, wearing masks, and indoor and outdoor gathering limits.