The Nova Scotia Civil Liberties Association was founded upon simple, fundamental principles with clear objectives - to defend the civil liberties of Nova Scotians utilizing whatever means we have available. This can include general advocacy, lobbying, press releases and other communications.
Other times, more pressing matters will require the NSCLA to bring an application before various levels of court in order to ensure the rule of law endures, and the civil liberties of all Nova Scotians remains intact. Here you will find details of the legal avenues the NSCLA is currently pursuing for active court intervention, as well as past cases.
Legal Update, Protest Case Resolution - June 2023
In March 2022, the NSCLA filed an Application in Court, challenging two emergency directives issued in early 2022 by the Province, which broadly prohibited any demonstration that would interfere with the normal flow of traffic on any road, street or highway in the entire Province. The NSCLA's Application argued that these protest bans were overbroad and constituted an unjustified infringement of Nova Scotians' freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. Not long after the Application was filed, the Province decided not to renew the State of Emergency that had been in place for two years and the protest ban directives expired at that time.
The Province argued that the matter was moot because the bans were no longer in effect. It also argued the NSCLA should not be given public interest standing to argue the case because it had no concrete interest in the outcome. The NSCLA disputed both points, arguing that the case engaged serious issues of public interest and that the legality of the protest bans ought to be assessed by the Court, even if they were no longer in effect. A hearing was held on these preliminary issues on April 27, 2023.
On Wednesday, June 28, 2023, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court rendered its decision on mootness and standing. Justice Peter Rosinski held that the NSCLA should not be granted public interest standing to bring the case forward. He further held that the matter is moot because the bans have not been in effect since March 2022, and that it would not be a justified use of judicial resources for the Court to hear the Application.
Regrettably, this decision means that the Court will not hear our challenge to the protest bans on its merits.
We thank everyone who contributed to our attempts to address important issues of government overreach and constitutional freedoms. We will keep you advised of any updates on this matter and other legal efforts.
You can download the full 40-page decision here:
Legal Update - December 2022
In March 2022, the NSCLA filed an Application in Court, challenging the constitutionality of two Ministerial Directives issued by the Province of Nova Scotia under its emergency legislation in January and February 2022. These broadly prohibited protest activity on highways, roads and streets in the Province. The NSCLA argues that these Directives were an over-broad abuse of the Government's emergency powers and unjustifiably infringed Nova Scotians' Charter-protected freedom of assembly and freedom of association.
The Province has denied the claims and argues the Directives as issued were reasonable and necessary. The Province also argues the Application should not be heard because it is moot, as the Directives were rescinded upon the expiration of the Provincial State of Emergency in March 2022. Further, the Province argues that the NSCLA lacks standing to bring this Application in the public interest.
The NSCLA maintains the issue is of major public importance and must be heard by the Court. In our view, the Province is not entitled to issue broad emergency decrees affecting the constitutional rights and civil liberties of all Nova Scotians, and then avoid any judicial scrutiny simply by rescinding the decrees before a Charter challenge can be heard. Such a precedent cannot be tolerated.
Since filing, the NSCLA has submitted its affidavit evidence. Last month, it received the affidavit evidence and extensive documentation on which the Province intends to rely.
The parties are in the process of exchanging legal briefs on the preliminary issues of mootness and standing. The hearing of those threshold issues is expected to be held in January 2023 ,after which we will know whether the Court will hear the case on the merits.
We will continue to communicate any updates on this case as it develops.
March 17, 2022 - Nova Scotia Civil Liberties Association vs The Province of Nova Scotia
The Nova Scotia Civil Liberties Association (NSCLA) is taking steps to have the Court review the constitutionality of Emergency Directives issued by the Province of Nova Scotia in late January and early February 2022. These Directives broadly limited all Nova Scotians' right to protest and to assemble in ways that had nothing to do with public health.
On March 17, 2022, the NSCLA filed an Application in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, alleging the Emergency Directives unjustifiably infringe both sections 2(b) and 2(c) of the Charter, even in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and Provincial State of Emergency.
Using the emergency powers available to it under the Provincial State of Emergency, the Government imposed significant restrictions on the freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly of all persons in Nova Scotia under the Emergency Directives' broad terms. These restrictions were unrelated to any public health concerns that gave rise to the Provincial State of Emergency under which the Directives were made.
The NSCLA says this was clearly an over broad and excessive use of the Province's emergency powers under the Emergency Management Act and constituted, in its purpose and effect, an indefinite ban on protected freedom of assembly and freedom of expression that was unjustifiable in a free and democratic society.
The Province has recently announced that the Provincial State of Emergency will, for the first time in two years, no longer be renewed after March 20, 2022. The Directives will therefore cease to be in effect at that time. While the Directives may soon no longer be in force in the province, the NSCLA remains concerned about the circumstances that led to such broad prohibitions affecting lawful and protected activities of all Nova Scotians.
The Directives curtailed fundamental freedoms under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and we believe that the Province exceeded the legal use of its emergency powers in issuing them. Emergency edicts such as these must be subjected to judicial scrutiny, both for the sake of rights already affected and for those that may be further eroded in the future, if similar measures are ever repeated.
The NSCLA is a provincial, non-profit, independent, non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting respect for and observance of fundamental human rights and civil liberties in Nova Scotia.
Please donate if you wish to contribute to this ongoing case as well as future cases the NSCLA is planning to bring in front of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in order to uphold the civil liberties of all Nova Scotians. We are 100% funded by private donations.