BY PAMELA FAYERMAN
The rebuttal to a civil lawsuit filed against Dr. Bonnie Henry and the B.C. government denies that public health orders during the pandemic have deprived citizens of their rights and freedoms.
In the response filed in the Supreme Court of B.C., government lawyers Jacqueline Hughes, Gareth Morley, Caily DiPuma and Emily Lapper say the plaintiffs’ pursuit of a class-action lawsuit should fail because it lacks the facts and legal basis to support such a cause of action.
The government documents were filed in response to the lawsuit spearheaded by Kip Warner and a non-profit group calling itself the Canadian Society for the Advancement of Science and Public Policy. They allege that COVID is no worse than seasonal influenza and that Henry and the government have misrepresented the severity of COVID-19. Public health orders have thus been unjustified, they allege. A news report by Penny Daflos of CTV Vancouver at the beginning of the year showed that B.C. had recorded more deaths from COVID-19 than 10 years of flu.
The government says all public health orders brought into effect by Henry, the provincial health officer, have been intended to prevent and contain the transmission of COVID-19 cases. Without such measures, COVID-19 would spread “exponentially.”
Without providing any specifics about COVID-19 relative to influenza, the government states COVID-19 “can be spread by people who do not have symptoms. It has a higher transmissibility rate compared to influenza. It is highly transmissible prior to symptom onset and has a higher infection fatality rate.”
The acknowledgment in the government’s response that COVID-19 can be spread by people without symptoms is noteworthy since B.C. officials have long been averse to COVID testing – both rapid tests and PCR – for those without symptoms. As health minister Adrian Dix has said: “We test what we need to test, we test symptomatic people in B.C.” Henry has repeated many times that testing resources should be reserved for those with symptoms.
The response to the lawsuit also denies the allegation that COVID tests produce too many false positives as alleged.
The government response says that over the course of the pandemic, the scientific community and public health officials have learned that the likelihood of transmission of COVID-19 is greater when people are interacting in communal settings (like events and celebrations) rather than in transactional settings (stores); in close proximity to each other; in crowded or indoor settings; and when speaking, singing, chanting or engaging in “excited expression.”
“The overriding concern is to ensure that public health act orders prevent and contain the transmission of COVID, based on the best available scientific evidence and epidemiological data at the time the particular order is issued.”
Another overriding concern is to ensure orders “protect the most vulnerable members of society while minimizing social disruption.”
The plaintiffs are seeking to have the court certify the lawsuit as a class action but the government contends that the matter is not suitable for such a proceeding.
The plaintiffs’ Go Fund Me campaign to finance the litigation has to date raised less than $40,000 from 236 donors, far short of the $100,000 target.
Read the lawsuit here.
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