COVID-19: Maritimers adjust to new reality during state of emergency
HALIFAX -- Citing extraordinary measures for extraordinary times, Nova Scotia became the latest province to declare a state of emergency on Sunday, joining New Brunswick, which had already taken those steps a few days earlier.
"We have no choice but to call upon the police and law enforcement agency to enforce self-isolation and social distancing," said Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey.
"Starting immediately, police have the authority to issue summary offence tickets to people who are not adhering to Dr. Strang's order to self isolate or adhere to social distancing."
For most Maritimers, this is the first time they have lived through a state of emergency, or a public health emergency like on Prince Edward Island.
So, what do these designations mean for daily life in the Maritimes?
“Well, essentially what it means is that the government now has very broad and extensive discretionary powers to do just about anything,” says Wayne MacKay, professor emeritus of law at Dalhousie University.
MacKay says there are very few limits to government powers, especially under the health protection and emergency management acts.
“They can detain people, they can enter property without warrants, they can do all kinds of things,” says MacKay. “The actual powers in those two statutes are quite staggering.”
Civil liberties expert Walter Thompson says he’s always concerned about the suspension of the rights we enjoy as Canadians and hopes the government has a plan to restore them in an orderly way.
“Is focus being given at all to balancing the interests, so that people can begin to lead their lives in a normal fashion, even if by degrees? What's the plan?” asks Thompson.
Both MacKay and Thompson note Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is under increasing pressure to introduce the modern equivalent of the War Measures Act to tackle COVID-19 -- a move his father Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau made 50 years ago in response to the FLQ crisis.
Pierre Trudeau received heavy criticism at the time for suspending individual rights in dealing with the national emergency.
With parks, beaches, playgrounds, and sports facilities now off-limits, schools, universities, and colleges closed, and gatherings limited to a maximum of five people, life in Nova Scotia has dramatically changed.