Alberta Premier Jason Kenney makes an announcement at a news conference in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Kenney is to speak to Alberta’s COVID-19 situation a day after his chief medical officer of health said recent measures to contain the skyrocketing spread of the novel coronavirus are failing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

Temporary injunction sought against Alberta COVID-19 restrictions at Christmas

CALGARY — Two southern Alberta churches and three individuals are to be in a Calgary court today to argue that the province’s COVID-19 restrictions “cancel Christmas” and infringe on constitutional rights.

They will be seeking an injunction to temporarily stay select public-health rules brought in by the Alberta government earlier this month.

The measures limit Christmas celebrations to individual households, restrict weddings and funerals to 10 people and prohibit outdoor gatherings.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced the stricter rules to try to bring down stubbornly high COVID-19 cases and to ease pressure on hospitals.

James Kitchen, a lawyer for the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, says the restrictions violate the charter of rights and were imposed without consultation or review.

Kitchen says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, has taken away people’s right to choose how they want to spend the holidays.

“(Hinshaw) has ridden roughshod over the rights and freedoms of Albertans, even going so far as attempting to cancel Christmas and outlaw all forms of peaceful protest,” Kitchen said in a statement.

“It now falls to the courts to decide if one unelected doctor can prevent millions of healthy Albertans, who are at almost no risk from COVID-19, from deciding for themselves whether to celebrate Christmas with their families in their own homes.”

Hinshaw has explained several times at her briefings that she makes recommendations based on an analysis of numbers and the rate of spread of COVID-19, but it is up to the government to make a decision on what public-health measures to bring in.

The latest rules also restrict restaurants and bars to delivery or takeout and have closed casinos, gyms, recreation centres, libraries, theatres and personal service providers such as hair salons and spas.

Retail stores and churches can stay open, but at 15 per cent capacity. Outdoor skating rinks and ski hills may remain active.

Kenney also brought in a provincewide mask mandate in indoor public spaces, including workplaces — the last province in the country to do so.

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