THUNDER BAY – A Lakehead University law professor has signed the Free North Declaration.
A professor at Lakehead University’s Bora Laskin Faculty of Law, Ryan Alford, has signed the Free North Declaration, a declaration calling for “the immediate end of vaccine passports and mandates” and a “public inquiry into the handling of all aspects of the declared pandemic."
“I was very glad that I got an opportunity to signal to the legal profession that we have an opportunity now to express our concern about the erosion of civil liberties and the pandemic,” said Alford.
The Free North Declaration launched Nov. 12 by Bruce Pardy, professor of law at Queen’s University, along with Lisa Bildy, Stephen Penney, and Christopher Nunn, has been signed by 398 lawyers and just over 43,000 concerned citizens as of Dec. 1.
“I think that people are looking for an opportunity to say that they don’t agree with what they consider a one-sided narrative, where there’s really only one problem in the public’s mind which is a very serious problem that of safety and health,” said Alford.
“But as a legal profession, we have a special responsibility to promote constitutionality, to the rule of law, to promote the idea that there are always limits on what governments can do even in emergencies. So I think they’re very glad to be given that opportunity to say, let’s play our role as lawyers and say there are more factors to consider even in a very grave situation.”
Alford does note that though Lakehead University has a policy mandating vaccines, the fact that they took the personal rights and freedoms of people into consideration is apparent in the accommodations it makes.
“I think that when we see a mandate that has a clear policy for exemptions on both human rights grounds and medical grounds, you see that at the very least there’s been a consideration of the importance of civil liberties,” said Alford.
“Then you have a very complicated question of how those are assessed and how things should be balanced. But at the very least, what we see is that the people who formulated the policy takes seriously the idea that there are constitutional rights at stake and human rights at stake. Which is something that I see is a step in the right direction.”
The declaration states that unvaccinated persons are “banned from juries, throwing into question the ability of all to obtain a fair trial heard by a jury of their peers,” and Alford agrees that the current COVID measures in relation to juries, causes more issues with something that is already a topic for concern.
“I think it’s most problematic as a precedent. The idea would be that we would have people be accused and on trial for particular crimes and we would be excluding from jury pools people who for particular reasons, would be sympathetic to their cause,” said Alford.
“That’s always been a serious topic of concern in the common law. So it’s quite surprising that we see a measure like that being proposed and not being treated very seriously.”