The Pandemic and Religious Freedom

This presentation as part of the Dialogue will analyze the impact of the pandemic and the resulting legal response on religious freedom. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects religious freedom. Among the most controversial events of the pandemic in Canada were restrictions on religious assembly, which triggered protests and legal action from claimants who viewed their religious freedom as being unduly restricted. This presentation will consider the complex relationship between religious freedom and emergency public health measures.

Federalism and the Public Health Emergency

Canadian federalism was at the forefront of political and legal debates about emergency measures. From inter-governmental negotiations about funding and delivering sick days, to questions around the precise delineating of overlapping jurisdiction over public health, to widely varying provincial responses, to disputes about the constitutionality of previously unheard of inter-provincial restrictions on mobility, the theory and practice of federalism was on display on a daily basis. This presentation will consider the use/abuse/disuse of emergency powers by the federal and provincial governments, as the case may be, and whether the pandemic is likely to have a long-term impact on Canadian federalism.

Federalism and the Public Health Emergency

This presentation will also consider the impact of the pandemic on federalism. It will have a particular focus on how the Province of Quebec used its jurisdictional authority to assert a distinct response to the public health crisis. It will consider whether there will be a long-lasting impact on Quebec politics and its relationship with the federal and provincial governments.

The Emergency and Public Health

The pandemic required a bevy of robust public health responses, from the procurement and distribution of vaccines, to protocols within hospitals on triage and the provision of scarce resources, to restrictions on movement, commerce, and nearly all other activities. Questions were raised as to whether these responses were adequate to meet the public health emergency as well as whether they exacerbated pre-existing inequalities in Canadian society. This presentation will consider how the Canadian legal order responded to the public health challenges of the pandemic.