Rights were violated for the greater good, Hinshaw tells court

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“There are plenty of data to show the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical interventions,” Hinshaw said.

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Alberta’s chief medical officer of health acknowledged on Tuesday that measures taken to combat the COVID-19 pandemic affect individual rights.

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But Dr Deena Hinshaw told a hearing challenging her public health orders that the measures were a “last resort” needed to protect individuals from coronavirus and maintain health system sustainability.

Cross-examined by attorney Leighton Gray, one of two lawyers representing the parties challenging the constitutionality of Hinshaw’s orders, the doctor said such measures were necessary when voluntary compliance did not prevent the spread of the disease .

“With many of the health orders that you issued, you knew, the Alberta government knew, that they were limiting or restricting individual freedoms. . . is not it? Gray asked.

“The last resort was to restrict these freedoms when the ability to mitigate the risk that COVID posed to the population was not possible with the . . . voluntary means that had been employed before,” Hinshaw said.

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“This therefore does not support my assertion about the Alberta government’s hierarchy of values ​​that dealing with COVID, the public health issue was more important than individual personal freedoms in the context of COVID-19,” said Grey.

“At a time when the health care system was in danger of becoming overwhelmed, it is clear that the decisions that were made were intended to limit certain personal freedoms in order to both protect the health care system and minimize the serious consequences for the good of the entire population,” Hinshaw said.

“So at those specific times when the threat was significant and growing, again very specific freedoms were restricted in an effort to protect the population as a whole.”

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Gray, who represents two churches challenging Hinshaw’s orders, and attorney Jeffrey Rath, who represents three people, want Judge Barbara Romaine to find the measures violated individual Charter rights and should be declared inoperative.

Such a move could limit any future action the province might consider if a sixth wave of the pandemic begins to overwhelm the health care system.

Even if the Court of Queen’s Bench judge finds the orders violated individual rights, she could still decide they were justified in the circumstances of the pandemic.

Gray suggested Hinshaw’s view that the non-pharmaceutical interventions she ordered — such as masking requirements and restrictions on public gatherings, including religious services — saved lives was not supported by proofs.

“There really isn’t any data to back that up, is there?” Gray said.

“I wouldn’t agree with that. There are plenty of data to show the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical interventions,” Hinshaw said.

His testimony will continue on Wednesday.

[email protected]

Twitter: @KMartinCourts

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