Alberta premier asks minister to see if appeal of school mask decision is ‘appropriate’


EDMONTON — Alberta’s premier says she’s ordering her justice minister to uphold the province’s « full authority » after a court ruled overturning mask mandates in schools earlier this year violated the law and was unreasonable.

Danielle Smith released a statement saying she told Tyler Shandro to see if an appeal of Thursday’s Court of King’s Bench decision is « appropriate », adding that the government « will not allow further masking warrants of children » in schools.

A provincial task force and children whose parents said they were at greater risk of serious consequences from COVID-19, launched a legal challenge to an order from the Chief Medical Officer of Health in February that lifted the mask requirements in schools.

They also took issue with a statement by Education Minister Adriana LaGrange that school boards would not be allowed to impose their own mask requirements.

Judge Grant Dunlop said in a ruling on Thursday that evidence showed Dr Deena Hinshaw’s public health order ‘merely implemented a decision of a committee of cabinet’ and did not come from the chief medical officer herself , which he said violated the Public Health Act.

Smith says that in addition to seeking remedies, she is also asking Shandro, LaGrange and Health Minister Jason Copping to seek legislative or regulatory changes that could strengthen the government’s position on mask mandates and other health and education issues.

“The detrimental effects of masking on the mental health, development and education of children in the classroom are well understood, and we must turn the page on what has been an extremely difficult time for children, as well as their parents and their teachers, » Smith said. Saturday in a press release.

Dunlop wrote that the government had framed the removal of school mask mandates as a policy decision for elected officials, and Hinshaw’s order implemented that decision.

But he noted that unlike some other provinces, Alberta’s Public Health Act makes it clear that such decisions during a public health emergency must come from a medical officer of health.

Dunlop pointed out that during a press conference on Jan. 5, a month before school mandates were lifted, Hinshaw supported masks in classrooms.

“At the February 10, 2022 press conference, when asked what had changed in the last month or so to make mask-wearing for children more necessary, Dr Hinshaw replied: ‘I I would defer to Minister Copping to answer that question' ». Dunlop wrote.

“The fact that Dr Hinshaw refused to explain why she was removing the school mask mandate when a month earlier she was recommending that students at all grades wear masks, and the fact that she sent the Questions to the Minister of Health, who is a member of (Priority Implementation Cabinet Committee) supports the conclusion that the decision to remove the school mask mandate was the decision of the PICC, not that of Dr Hinshaw.

Dunlop also ruled that LaGrange’s statement never actually prohibited school boards from imposing their own mask requirements, although he noted in the ruling that some school boards mistakenly believed that was the case.

« (Although) Minister LaGrange’s statement appears on the face of it to prohibit school boards from imposing mask mandates, this is not the case, as the minister can only do so through regulation, and the statement was not a settlement, » Dunlop wrote.

Smith announced his intention to replace Hinshaw at the province’s top medical post.

Lawyers representing the government argued that the masks harmed children’s development, but Dunlop rejected that argument on the grounds that the submissions supporting the claim were unsworn.

He also rejected arguments that lifting the school mask mandate violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He wrote that the affidavits of the children’s doctors were not sufficient to establish that children were at greater risk if they contracted COVID-19.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on October 29, 2022.


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