Seven people with Yukon ties have filed a new petition questioning the validity of the the Yukon government’s extension of the territory’s state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Court challenge filed over extension of Yukon’s state of emergency under COVID-19

The petition alleges that the Yukon government made the decision in an opaque, undemocratic way

Seven people with Yukon ties have filed a new petition questioning the validity of the Yukon government’s extension of the territory’s state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group filed a petition to the Yukon Supreme Court on Aug. 27 requesting a judicial review of the decision in June to extend the state of emergency by 90 days.

Among the petitioners are Ross Mercer, Trent Andrew Jamieson, Douglas Craig Walker, Allan Patrick Mytrash, Martin Gregory Loos, Jan Erik Martensson and Clayton Robert Thomas. All of them are Yukon residents except for Mytrash, who owns a house in the territory and has “social and economic ties” to the Yukon as well as Atlin, British Columbia.

They’re seeking an order quashing the Yukon government’s June 12 order-in-council to extend the Yukon’s state of emergency on four grounds, alleging the decision is “unreasonable or egregious” and “inconsistent with and fails to properly interpret” the territory’s Civil Emergency Measures Act.

They also allege the decision and the process leading up to it lacked proper transparency and justification, and thereby “frustrate the unwritten principles of the Canadian Constitution and other principles of Canadian Society.”

The Yukon government, minister of community services and attorney general of the Yukon are listed as respondents.

The group had previously filed another petition attacking the validity of the Civil Emergency Measures Act itself as well as an order laying out travel enforcement at the Yukon’s borders. That petition has since been dismissed with the consent of all parties.

The government has not yet filed a reply to the Aug. 27 petition. Cabinet spokesperson Matthew Cameron wrote in a Sept. 9 email that he had no comment as the matter is before the courts.

The new petition relies on the same facts as the last one — the relatively low number of COVID-19 cases in the territory, a timeline of when the government introduced various restrictions and how the Yukon’s situation compares to other Canadian jurisdictions.

However, it takes specific aim at what the petitioners allege is a lack of accountability, transparency and necessity around the state of emergency the territory has been under since March 27.

“The reasoning put forward appears to be that the declaration of a state of emergency provides the respondents with more tools, with the possibility to act quickly ‘in case actions need to be taken,’” the petition reads, quoting a statement by Premier Sandy Silver.

“The risk to Yukoners, however, has not increased. Only the restrictions placed on Yukoners did.

“It is improper for the respondents to declare a state of emergency as a matter of convenience or expedience. Such declarations must be grounded in utmost necessity.”

The Civil Emergency Measures Act, the petition suggests, would already allow for the Yukon officials to take quick action when needed without keeping the territory under a constant state of emergency. It also argues that the act “constrains government declarations to truly imminent emergencies.”

“Nothing in the Yukon situation warrants a declaration of a state of emergency,” the petition reads in another part. “Regular democratic processes and lawmaking avenues are quite capable of responding to the situation as it presents itself in the Yukon.”

The petitioners also accused the Yukon government of making the decision to extend the state of emergency in an undemocratic way, in a process that “was completely veiled from the public eye and from the scrutiny of the legislative assembly.”

“(First Nations) communities, members of the Legislative Assembly for opposition parties (and possibly backbenchers), media and the public were all treated alike,” the petition reads.

“All were left in the dark until the Decision was announced as a fait accompli.

“In short, all stakeholders and people affected by the Decision, save for a handful of individuals brought into Cabinet’s fold were left in the dark until the decision was announced… In so doing, the respondents prevented any form of democratic process from occurring in relation to the Decision, and the very serious consequences that flow from the Decision.”

The decision to extend the state of emergency, the petition notes, has had “significant consequences on the life, liberty, dignity and livelihoods of Yukoners.”

It describes it as “one of the most important decisions that have been made by the respondents since their creation by statue,” but alleges that government officials have “failed to provide any justification” for the extension or the impacts of keeping the territory under a state of emergency.

“The petitioners, as well as all Yukoners, are entitled to an explanation by the respondents about why it is that their interests, both personal and as a society, are being affected as proposed by the Decision,” it says.

The petition is requesting the government provide all documents it relied on in extending the state of emergency, its COVID-19 models, and information, documents and notes about the threat posed by COVID-19 prior to June 12.

The case has yet to appear before a judge.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

CoronavirusYukon courtsYukon government

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