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Federal Court documents reveal travel ban not based on science

The federal government is trying to quash two separate lawsuits against its travel ban, which is called one of the strongest vaccination mandates for travellers in the world.

OTTAWA – The federal government’s travel ban wasn't based on medical science, according to court documents released by the Federal Court of Canada.

Lawyer Sam Presvelos filed the constitutional challenge against the federal government on behalf of Karl Harrison of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Shaun Rickard of Pickering, Ontario.

In a tweet, the Federal Court said due to the interest in Harrison et al. v Attorney General all court documents were being posted to their website.

Court documents show that just days before the travel ban was to take effect, transportation officials were struggling to find justification for the ban.

In addition, court documents reveal that neither the prime minister’s office nor the offices of the health minister and the transportation minister sought advice from Dr. Celia Lourenco – who approved the vaccines for use in Canada – before they made the decision to impose the vaccine mandate.

The court documents show that just weeks before the travel ban came into effect, Aaron McCrorie, the associate assistant deputy minister, safety and security at Transport Canada, emailed people at Health Canada seeking anything to support the federal government’s policy.

McCrorie wrote: “To the extent that updated data exist or that there is clearer evidence of the safety benefit of vaccination on the users or other stakeholders of the transportation system, it would be helpful to assist Transport Canada supporting its measures.”

Days later he emailed again saying, “need something fairly soon.”

Court documents show that the only response McCrorie got was information on the benefits of vaccines.

Dr. Lisa Waddell, an epidemiologist at the Public Health Agency of Canada, who wrote a study for PHAC that showed there wasn’t much risk of transmission on airplanes was one of the witnesses called to testify.

In her report she stated that the risk of being infected with Covid-19 in the cabin of an airplane was about one case in every 1.7 million travellers.

Before forcing the travel ban, the Liberal government had publicly opposed any type of vaccine mandate and Justin Trudeau described any mandate as an “extreme measure that could have divisive impacts on community and country.”

On Aug. 13, 2021, just before the election was called, however, the Liberals flip flopped and announced a vaccine mandate for anyone who wanted to fly or take a train across Canada.

Jennifer Little, the director-general of a government panel called COVID Recovery, which drafted the mandate, called it “one of the strongest vaccination mandates for travellers in the world.” 

Court documents also reveal that no one in the COVID Recovery unit, including Jennifer Little, the director-general, had any formal education in epidemiology, medicine or public health.

During cross-examination, Little alluded to the fact that a senior official in the prime minister’s cabinet – or the prime minister himself – had directed bureaucrats to impose the travel ban.

Little, however, refused to admit to the court who in the federal government ordered the panel to impose the travel ban.

“I’m not at liberty to disclose anything that is subject to cabinet confidence,” said Little. Cabinet confidence refers to the prime minister’s cabinet.

Federal government lawyers filed a motion to quash Harrison and Ricard’s suit on the grounds that it was now moot because the government suspended the travel ban. In response, to keep the lawsuit afloat, Presvelos filed a damages motion arguing that Harrison and Ricard have suffered damages during the travel ban. They are back in court in September when a judge will rule whether the lawsuit can proceed or be quashed.

The federal government lawyers are also trying to quash a similar lawsuit against the travel ban by Brian Peckford, Maxime Bernier, and four other individuals. On Sept. 21, there will be a one-day “mootness hearing,” in Peckford’s case because the federal government says that the suspension of the travel ban makes the legal action pointless.

In June 2022, the federal government suspended – not cancelled – the mandate, which means they could bring it back at any time.