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Group of police officers files constitutional challenge over Ontario pandemic rules

A group of active and retired police officers from several forces has launched a legal challenge over Ontario’s pandemic orders, alleging that enforcing the rules requires officers to breach their oath to uphold the constitution.

Notice of the constitutional challenge was filed late last month on behalf of 19 officers, including two Toronto officers currently facing an internal police investigation for allegedly breaching the restrictions on social gatherings.

The civil action targets Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Ontario’s attorney general, five police chiefs as well as federal officials.

The claim, which has not been tested in court, seeks a number of declarations, including that religious services and protests are exempt from rules on gatherings, and that restrictions on interprovincial travel violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It also seeks an order that police supervisors, politicians and public health officials stop interfering with officers’ discretion in applying and enforcing the law.

Rocco Galati, lawyer representing the group, says he believes the action is the first of its kind in Canada.

“To my knowledge this is the first time that police officers… have actually gone to court against the legislative and executive branch of the government, saying that the laws … that they are being asked and are under a duty to enforce in fact violate not only their oath, and their duty, and their office, but the constitution,” he said in a recent news conference. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2021.

The Canadian Press