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Injunction to stop anti-lockdown protests issued in Nova Scotia

Monday, May 17, 2021 @ 3:37 PM | By Terry Davidson

A court in Nova Scotia has ordered an injunction against groups seeking to protest the province’s COVID-19 health measures.

On May 14, Nova Scotia’s Supreme Court issued the provincewide, ex parte injunction in response to rallies that two protest groups had planned for the next day, Saturday, May 15.  

In its action, the court took aim at “Freedom Nova Scotia,” a group that had organized a 1 p.m. protest at Citadel Hill in Halifax, and participants in “Worldwide Freedom Rally,” a demonstration planned for 6 p.m., at a baseball field in the municipality of Barrington.

Freedom Nova Scotia had organized past rallies in the Halifax area for March 28, April 1 and May 1 — all of which breached the current public health order, according to Nova Scotia’s government.

The order outlines what an illegal public gathering currently is under the Health Protection Act and gave warning to Freedom Nova Scotia and any others planning mass gatherings that they “shall be restrained anywhere in … Nova Scotia” for violating public health rules.

The order, which will be in place until it is varied or “discharged by a further Order of the Court,” forbids “organizing an in-person gathering,” as well as “requesting, inciting, or inviting others to attend” an illegal gathering. It also outlaws the promoting of illegal gatherings “via social media and otherwise.”

It authorizes police to arrest those who allegedly break the rules and to get them in front of a judge as soon as possible. There, individuals will have to give reasons why they should not be found to be in civil contempt. 

Under the province’s current public health restrictions, indoor and outdoor gatherings without social distancing must be limited to people from the same household. Smaller households of one to two people can also gather without social distancing, but they must always be the same two households each time.  

As part of his decision in Nova Scotia (Attorney General) v. Freedom Nova Scotia 2021 NSSC 170, Justice Scott Martin spoke of the need in this case for an injunction.

“In the context of interlocutory injunctions, the balance of convenience analysis requires the court to consider which of the parties would suffer greater harm if the injunction was not granted,” wrote Justice Martin.

“The Court finds that the balance of convenience does not favour permitting the anti-mask rally to proceed on May 15, 2021,” he wrote. “The balance of convenience also does not favour permitting similar events to be held within the Province at any point in the future while the Public Health Order preventing such activity is in place.”

A government news release issued shortly after the court’s action states that the injunction order “prohibits any rally that would contravene the province’s public health directives.”

“It also prohibits organizers from continuing to promote the rallies on social media and authorizes police to ensure compliance with the Health Protection Act.”

It goes on to state the injunction will remain in force until Nova Scotia’s state of emergency is lifted.

Affidavits of Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, and Hayley Crichton, director of public safety and investigations, were filed to the court as evidence.

Nova Scotia’s Premier, Iain Rankin, spoke of “collective responsibility” in statements he made shortly after the order was issued.  

“Nova Scotia is in a state of emergency,” said Rankin. “People have lost their lives. Our collective responsibility is to keep everyone safe,” said Rankin. “All Nova Scotians must respect the public health orders and directives. This is particularly important as the province and our health-care employees work around the clock to care for people in this third wave of the pandemic.”

Police reportedly made multiple arrests on Citadel Hill on May 15, the day of the planned Freedom Nova Scotia demonstration.

On May 16, Nova Scotia reported 126 new cases of COVID-19 and 103 recoveries.

There are 106 cases in Central Zone, nine in Eastern Zone, nine in Western Zone and two in Northern Zone, bringing the total active cases that day to 1,531. As of then, there were 92 people being treated for COVID-19 in hospital, including 21 in intensive care units.

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