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March 8, 2021

On February 8, 2021, Thunder Bay’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. DeMille, issued a Class Order directed at individuals being released from the Thunder Bay District Jail. Last week the CCLA, along with the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO) and Aboriginal Legal Services (ALS), sent a letter to Dr. DeMille drawing attention to the fact that the Order goes beyond the legal authority provided in the Health Promotion and Protection Act (HPPA) and is unconstitutional. The organizations are calling for the Order to be rescinded immediately.

The February Class Order requires everyone released from the Thunder Bay District Jail to travel immediately to a designated “Isolation Shelter”. While there, medical staff are authorized to impose forced COVID-19 testing and can require individuals to remain there indefinitely. While there, individuals are also required to follow unspecified rules and directions. Contravention of the Order is an offence and could result in a $5,000 fine per day of contravention.

The Order is illegal and unconstitutional and should be rescinded.

Forcing individuals to take a COVID-19 test without their consent and without the option to self-isolate as an alternative – a choice other individuals have been given throughout the pandemic – is unconstitutional. Ontario’s public health legislation, the HPPA, does not authorize Medical Officers of Health to order individuals’ detention; the illegal detention of individuals at the Isolation Shelter is an unconstitutional deprivation of liberty. The Order also violates the right to substantive equality under section 15 of the Charter due to its disproportionate impact on Indigenous people.

CCLA also has significant concerns about the transparency of the orders being issued by the Public Officer of Health. The February Class Order is not posted on the Thunder Bay District Health Unit’s website, and CCLA attempted multiple times to obtain the order directly from the Thunder Bay District Health Unit.

CCLA understands and acknowledges the current public health situation and the need to protect vulnerable populations in particular. All emergency measures, however, must operate within the rule of law.

About the Canadian Civil Liberties Association

The CCLA is an independent, non-profit organization with supporters from across the country. Founded in 1964, the CCLA is a national human rights organization committed to defending the rights, dignity, safety, and freedoms of all people in Canada.

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