Anti-lockdown protesters march in defiance of quarantine measures taken to slow the spread Covid-19, Vancouver, BC, April 2020. BIGSTOCK

BY REID RUSONIK
Special to The VOICE

Imagine Canada has been invaded by a foreign army that, over the last 18 months, has rounded-up and killed over 27,000 of us, wounded tens of thousands more, forced us to take shelter from its attacks—thus crippling our economy—and now threatens to kill thousands more because not enough of us are resisting its renewed and possibly most deadly assault upon us yet.

How would our governments respond? How would we expect them to respond? We would expect there to be a draft, of course.

A military draft and military service violates a host of our rights enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but every violation would either stand up to constitutional challenge in the courts or we would expect the federal government to rely upon the Notwithstanding Clause—the “override power” in the Charter—to uphold its draft and military service legislation.

In times of invasion, the needs of the community as a whole come before the desires and imagined entitlements of the individual, or there will not be a community for those individual rights to thrive in after the war is over.

Even a brief study of human history reveals plague invasions are a certain part of human existence. We were due for a deadly one. We are apparently likely due for another, even deadlier one soon. It is frightening and depressing, yes, but it is part of the reality of being human.

It is, however, also part of the reality of being human that we do not have to helplessly succumb to illness. We can fight. We have survived terrible diseases by taking learned, appropriate precautions. We have conquered many with vaccinations and actual cures. We will almost certainly conquer more.

The Charter does not stand in the way of us organizing the community to accomplish this and prevent individuals from sabotaging the effort any more than it would protect individuals who refuse to be drafted into military service to fight an invading army.

The Charter is not cheapened or endangered by protecting the very lives of the members of the community either from immediate peril from an invader, or from the slow death and deprivation caused by a strangled economy.

Since Covid vaccines became widely available, the people refusing to take them while complaining about the effect to the economy of lockdowns have been the very cause of those lockdowns and other restrictions on normal economic activity.

Arguments against such measures that have no basis in reality, let alone scientific fact, have no right to be heard that needs protection to the point they endanger the community whilst the community faces invasion.

Arguments against such measures that have no basis in reality, let alone scientific fact, have no right to be heard

The demonstrators recently at the doors of hospitals that impeded ambulances, terrorized patients, and psychologically devastated the truest heroes in the fight against the pandemic invader have, at long last, finally gone too far.

This was the equivalent of storming our own military installations while we are in a war for survival.

Such acts are criminal acts against the community and should be defined and legislated as such—and not merely as quasi-criminal, ticketable provincial offenses.

Gathering in large groups unvaccinated and unmasked in a time of pandemic is a criminal act against the community and should be defined as such. Let people charged with such offenses try to argue in a court of law that their individual rights are greater than those of the community.

I am a defense lawyer. Some will question why a defense lawyer would argue for such limits on individual rights, imagining being a defense lawyer as akin to being a law-hating anarchist. I suspect very few defense lawyers hate laws. What we hate are unfair laws, laws without rational and scientific justification, and the unequal and prejudicial enforcement of laws that make a mockery of individual rights and, in so doing, endanger the whole community.

I believe there would be nothing contrary in the criminalization of unmasked, unvaccinated groups terrorizing and interfering with the operation of hospitals, or gathering as such anywhere, even if simply for being part of such groups.

We who fight for unpopular causes everyday in court do not understand the political cowardice that allows for a small minority of the population to thwart community efforts to fight and survive this pandemic and to revive the economy.

 

Reid Rusonik is managing partner of Rusonik, O’Connor, Robbins, Ross, & Angelini, LLP, and has practiced criminal defense law in Ontario for 35 years.