COVID-19 in Canada: Variable Forms of Power and Unvarying Judicial Deference

Over at Verfassungsblog, as part of an international series on COVID-19, I have a post on the law and politics of the pandemic response in Canada. Here are the opening and closing paragraphs:

As of early 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across Canada. These are dark days. Although the arrival of vaccines suggests light will soon appear at the end of the tunnel, Canada is a long way from the end of its COVID-19 crisis.

In this blog, I hope to illuminate readers, through the lens of pandemic-related public law litigation, about how Canada has responded to COVID-19. I will consider, first, the forms of power the federal and provincial governments have employed in response to the pandemic; second, the relatively passive role of the judiciary in responding to the pandemic; third, the significant deference judges have given to elected officials and medical experts in adjudicating challenges to various aspects of governmental responses to the pandemic; and fourth, the variability of Canadian provincial responses to the pandemic.

A notable feature of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada has been the adoption by courts, legislatures and other bodies of electronic technology to ensure that channels of accountability remain open and navigable by citizens, civil society organizations and the media. Legislative, judicial and administrative institutions alike have – after some initial difficulties – adapted well to a challenging situation. As this blog demonstrates, however, the courts have not played a particularly significant role: they have been reactive rather than passive and have deferred to elected politicians and medical experts. In responding in variable ways to the pandemic – using imperium, dominium and suasion to do so – Canada’s federal and provincial governments are very much in the driving seat as far as countering COVID-19 is concerned.

Read the whole thing here.

This content has been updated on March 9, 2021 at 01:30.