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Group involved in Ottawa protest forges ahead with Emergencies Act injunction hearing

The federal government argues the group’s motion should be dismissed because it is moot
A protester yells “freedom” towards a person who attempted to stick a paper sign on a truck criticizing the so-called “Freedom Convoy,” a protest against COVID-19 measures that has grown into a broader anti-government protest, on its 18th day, in Ottawa, on Monday, Feb. 14, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

A group involved in the recent protest in Ottawa against COVID-19 measures pressed ahead Friday in asking a court to halt federal use of the Emergencies Act, even though the government has already moved to revoke the powers.

Late last week, Canadian Frontline Nurses and member Kristen Nagle requested an injunction from the Federal Court staying the Liberal government’s use of the emergencies law and associated measures while their full case plays out in court.

The group and Nagle say they are opposed to “unreasonable” COVID-19-related mandates and restrictions that have been implemented by various levels of Canadian governments.

They ultimately want the court to rule that the federal government strayed beyond its jurisdiction in declaring a public order emergency last week, saying the move was unconstitutional.

Canadian Frontline Nurses, billing itself as a “proud advocate of medical freedom,” is not to be confused with the Canadian Nurses Association, which advocates mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for health-care workers.

The emergencies law allowed for temporary measures including regulation and prohibition of public assemblies, the designation of secure places, direction to banks to freeze assets and a ban on support for participants.

Police have said they used tools and authorities made available through the federal invocation of the law to end the occupation of Ottawa by protesters and many large trucks.

David Cowling, a lawyer for the group, told the court Friday that even through the government had withdrawn the emergency measures, the call for an injunction was not moot, as it was unclear whether the orders could still lead to future actions.

Cowling sought assurances that his clients would not have “their financial assets effectively frozen as a result of the emergency measures order.”

“If there was a true emergency — which we say there wasn’t in this case — you would want to still be able to prosecute people for having breached the regulations or orders under the act after the revocation of the proclamation,” Cowling told Justice Richard Mosley.

The federal government argues the group’s motion should be dismissed because it is moot, as there is nothing left for the court to stay now that the emergency measures have been withdrawn.

“The powers which were created under those regulations and orders are no longer in force,” said John Provart, a lawyer for the government.

“The hearing today has been wholly unnecessary.”

Further, the government says there is no evidence that the financial accounts of Nagle or the group have been frozen, nor any evidence that they will be.

Cowling said his concern about the freezing of financial assets “seems to be alleviated” by the federal assurances.

Mosley said he would issue a ruling on the matter “at the earliest opportunity.”

No date has been set to hear the group’s broader arguments about invocation of the Emergencies Act.

At a meeting this week with provincial and territorial counterparts, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino gave an update on the response to blockades and occupations that have taken place across the country, as well as invocation of the Emergencies Act.

“Ministers provided feedback on the decision to invoke the act and, while some were supportive, others expressed their dissatisfaction and concern over the precedent it may have set,” says a federal summary of the talks.

– Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press