Protect the rights of Albertans during COVID-19

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COVID-19 is uncharted territory for everyone, bringing about unprecedented change. Some of the precautions our government has taken, provincially and federally, have worked well. Yet, the United Conservative Party in Alberta is taking advantage of the situation by passing bills and laws that threaten our privacy and rights as Canadians. Now is the time not for governments to take advantage of a crisis, but instead to focus their energy on passing laws that have the highest impact on COVID-19 and the lowest impact on Albertans.

Jason Kenny, the Premier of Alberta, has passed several measures that are an infringement of our rights. His announcement that cellphone data will be tracked to ensure people are quarantining is a violation of not only our privacy laws, but runs contrary to our legal system. In Canada we assume people are innocent until proven guilty, Jason Kenny's surveillance system assumes you are guilty until proven innocent. Therefore, there is concern this will create a precedent, where such tracking can and should be used on other viruses and illnesses. We should not normalize the tracking and surveillance of those who are ill.

Along with this, the United Conservative Party in Alberta quickly passed Bill 10 in only 48 hours. This bill works with the Public Health Act. Under Bill 10, cabinet ministers can write laws and penalties during a public heath emergency without their being approved by the legislative assembly - meaning they can pass almost any law they deem necessary. In conjunction with the Public Health Act, politicians can take property away from citizens, enter a building without a warrant and forcibly conscript Albertans to help in a health emergency. These measures are counter-intuitive to Canada's democratic and legal framework.

Under Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, you are protected from unreasonable search and seizure. As a Canadian you are legally guaranteed an expectation of privacy, meaning there are some areas of life where one is safe from warrantless searches. The Supreme Court of Canada found that the expectation of privacy includes modern communication technologies, such as cellphones. Therefore, the forced tracking of quarantined peoples cellular data, along with taking of private property and entering residences without a warrant under the Public Health Act, are unconstitutional.

Such measures will continue until the government decides the public health emergency is over. With researchers saying restrictions may need to stay in place until there is a vaccine, we may live with these laws indefinitely. 

Our society should not have to choose between our health and our rights; we deserve both. 

Aspects of Alberta's Public Health Act, all of Bill 10 and the threat of Alberta tracking cellphone data are all unconstitutional. By signing this petition you are demanding the Alberta government:

  • suspends Bill 10;
  • does not pass measures that track the cellular data of people who are ill and/or quarantined;
  • revises the Public Health Act to not allow for seizure of private property, entering residences without a warrant, or forced conscription of Albertans

Albertans have done their civic duty so far in tackling COVID-19, which can be seen by our province’s current success. Therefore, the passing of harsher measures does not help deal with this crisis, but instead helps this government gain further control over the population. This may set a precedent for governments, and leads us down a slippery slope of government surveillance. 

Your rights are important; your health is important.

A government should never make you choose between the two.