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Ex-CMOH of Manitoba argues for transparent decision-making in CEMA court case

Yukon Supreme Court petition argues that CEMA violates the Charter
The ex-chief medical officer of Manitoba has filed an affidavit in the legal case challenging the Civil Emergency Measures Act, which was filed in the Yukon Supreme Court court by seven Yukoners last June. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

The ex-chief medical officer of Manitoba has filed an affidavit in the legal case challenging the Civil Emergency Measures Act (CEMA).

Yukon Supreme Court court petition, filed by seven Yukoners last June, argues that CEMA violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It says the Yukon government has exercised the powers enabled by CEMA with “an unprecedented lack of oversight, transparency, and accountability.”

The Yukon has been in a state of emergency under CEMA since March 2020.

Joel Kettner was the latest to file an affidavit associated with the petition. He is an associate professor at the University of Manitoba and worked previously as the chief medical officer of that province.

In his affidavit, he argues that the Yukon government should have been more transparent in its decision-making before declaring the state of emergency and then extending it.

“It is my opinion that the communication of the (Path Forward) plan is lacking in important details. Either these details did not exist or it has been decided to not share them with the public,” Kettner says.

“In either case, this would be cause for concern.”

In his 12-page affidavit, Kettner argues that transparency from public health officials and government leaders is pivotal.

“This is a matter of effectiveness and ethics, similar to the expectation from a clinical physician,” Kettner writes.

“Without it, the public — or an individual patient — is not able to understand the advice — or orders — that they have been given and are less likely to comply with them. This has been my experience in public health and in clinical practice.”

The affidavit continues to request information clarifying the Yukon government’s understanding of the threat posed by COVID-19. Kettner argues that the case can’t be successfully debated without that information.

“From a public health point of view, I can see no valid argument to withhold information, data, evidence or reasoning that was used to declare or renew a state of emergency on June 12, 2020,” Kettner says.

“On the contrary, in my opinion, it is in the interest of the health of the public that all relevant information available to and how it was used by public health decision-makers (including Cabinet) during an outbreak be communicated in a timely, transparent and accessible way to the public.”

The Yukon government has not yet filed a response.

The petition argues that while the state of emergency may have been justified, the government’s opaque decision-making defies democracy.

“This decision was made behind closed doors, with no public debate, no public consultation, no justification and no explanation of its intended purpose or aim,” the petition says.

“The use of emergency powers for an extended period of time is fundamentally inconsistent with the principle of accountability that is vital to a functioning democracy. It is also antithetical to the nature of an emergency.”

The petition argues that states of emergency should be a last resort, established in the short-term to respond to an imminent threat.

Contact Gabrielle Plonka at