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Province-wide curfew would violate charter rights: CCLA

CCLA is concerned that a curfew would disproportionately affect certain communities if it was ever implemented

We are expecting to hear from the Ford government Tuesday about stricter measures being implemented to help curb the spread of COVID-19. 

One of those measures that is being left out is an overnight curfew. Sources confirmed to 680 NEWS that Public Health Ontario isn't recommending to put that measure in place. 

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association said that if the Ford government ever does implement a curfew, that it will violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

Cara Zwibel is the Director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program at the CCLA and she said that at least two rights within the charter would be violated.

"It certainly violates our freedom to move about, our freedom to associate with people but every charter right is subject to reasonable limitations," said Zwibel, "a curfew might be considered a reasonable limitation but whether it's reasonable or not really depends on its necessity and its proportionality so how is it implemented and what is the evidence that we are using to support the notion that this is something that needs to be done and something that will be effective."

Zwibel said that the organization is concerned with this type of measure if it were to ever be implemented.

"It is very restrictive of people's freedoms and liberties and they can have unintended consequences," said Zwibel, "it's not really clear to me whether there is good evidence that a curfew would be effective in trying to curb the spread of the virus. We also have to pay attention to where and how the virus is spreading and make sure that the measures we are enacting are targeting those activities so I'm not sure if a curfew really gets at that."

The CCLA is also concerned it gives police more power to start asking questions to people who may be out after a certain time.

"A curfew would empower police at a certain time of day to start stopping people randomly and asking them questions about who they are, where they are going and what they are doing and that can open up a lot of opportunities for abuse and the burden tends to fall disproportionately on certain communities like racialized communities, Indigenous communities, and the homeless. We are concerned about those knock on effects." 

Zwibel adds that the effects of a curfew would put pressure on shelters in communities to take in the homeless population even if those shelters would be at capacity. 

"It doesn't work for people who are in that situation," said Zwibel, "it's really overestimating the safety of the shelters and whether it's a good idea to force people indoors into congregate settings when what you are trying to do is curb the spread of the virus," said Zwibel, "there's lots of potential unintended consequences that are associated with a curfew and what happens when you empower the police to exercise their discretion and stop people who are outdoors past a certain time of day." 

Zwibel said that she's reluctant to call a curfew a "knee-jerk" reaction but she said that the governments are trying to do what they can to help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

"I think I'd be reluctant to call anything knee-jerk at this point since we are many months into this and governments have been trying all different sorts of measures to try and deal with the issue but I think there may be instances where governments aren't thinking carefully about whether the measures they are going to put in place are going to be effective and really that's what it's all about is trying to make sure that we are targeting the right activities and protecting the less vulnerable people," said Zwibel. 

CCLA said that there's a risk that people may lose trust in public health measures and the government if something like this were to be implemented. 

"There's a risk with every measure that you might be alienating certain people by going too far, I think there's obviously already a fair bit amount of fatigue associated with the current measures that are in place," said Zwibel, "I do think governments have to be careful about where they dedicate their time and resources and how they enact these different measures." 

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