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Mirror café owner part of lawsuit seeking compensation for business hurt by pandemic measures

Lawsuit says businesses suffered billions in financial damages
Chris Scott, owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe, speaks during a rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 outside his restaurant in May. Scott wants to appeal his sentence for contempt of a court order prohibiting the rally. (Photo by The Canadian Press)

Mirror café owner Chris Scott is part of a class action lawsuit launched against the provincial government seeking billions to compensate small Alberta business for pandemic financial losses.

Joining the lawsuit is Calgary gym owner Rebecca Ingram whose court battle with the province led Calgary Court of King’s Bench Justice Barbara Romaine to rule that Alberta’s Public Health Act was breached when politicians, instead of the chief medical officer of health, made final decisions on health restrictions.

The judge also ruled, however, that any infringements of Albertans’ constitutional rights were “amply and demonstrably” justified under the Charter given the health emergency at the time.

As a result of the decision, Alberta Crown dropped charges against Chris Scott last month and withdrew dozens of similar pandemic-related charges against others.

Lawyer Jeff Rath said in a news conference Tuesday that the justice’s decision has “massive implications for the government and Province of Alberta from a damages perspective.”

The decision nullifies the protections under the Public Health Act that prevent lawsuits being filed for actions taken under the act because they were declared “patently unlawful,” Rath said.

“These were not orders issued pursuant to the Public Health Act and have exposed the government to massive liability in the billions of dollars.”

Rath said the court action is “brought from the standpoint of fairness and equity. On what planet should businesses and business owners have their property taken away from them, have their livelihoods and way of making a living completely impaired by government edict and order for the benefit of society as a whole without society as a whole compensating them for those losses?

“It’s a basic common law principle that there should be no expropriation without compensation.

“We believe that the premier of Alberta has a real opportunity to settle this case in a manner that will benefit and strengthen the economy of Alberta overall.”

Rath said the province should take financial compensation for businesses hurt by health restrictions from equalization payments sent to Ottawa.

“This is only fair and equitable and is something whose time has come.”

Rath said Scott and Ingram had their businesses “destroyed by deep-state Alberta government bureaucrats throughout the course of the pandemic.”

Scott said he opted to go the classic action lawsuit because the issues at stake do not only affect his business.

“I said right from the beginning whatever we do we have to help everybody who’s been affected and this is the way to do it,” he said at the news conference.

“This was about hundreds of thousands of people and tens of thousands of businesses across the province that were devastated,” he added. “They had no voice and no remedy and no way to fight back. They were just at the mercy of the administrative state.”

A class action must be certified by a judge before it can proceed.

Asked for comment, Chinenye Anokwuru, senior press secretary for Justice Minister Mickey Amery, said in an email it would be inappropriate to comment while the matter was before the courts.

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