Alberta cabinet confidentiality challenged in court as Hinshaw cross-examination continues

Day four of cross-examination of Dr. Deena Hinshaw included questions about cabinet confidentiality, in a case questioning if public health orders infringed on rights.

Shortly before updating Albertans on rising COVID-19 numbers in the province last week, Alberta’s top doctor was speaking to a judge in private on the topic of cabinet confidentiality.

Thursday was the fourth day of Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s cross-examination in a trial questioning whether Alberta’s COVID-19 public-health orders infringed on individual rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The question of cabinet confidentiality came up when lawyer Jeffery Rath asked Hinshaw whether any of her advice was ignored by cabinet, spurring an objection from government lawyers.

Throughout the pandemic Hinshaw has told reporters she can’t answer questions relating to the advice she gives to elected officials, how that advice was received, and what in the public-health orders she signs came from her advice.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Barbara Romaine reminded the lawyers for the plaintiffs that this case relates to whether public-health action infringed on rights, and if so, whether they were justified under section one of the Charter.

Therefore, to help her ruling, Romaine opted to ask Hinshaw three questions ‘in-camera,’ meaning during a private meeting.

These questions all relate to whether or not elected officials ever chose more restrictive measures than those recommended by Hinshaw in her role as chief medical officer. Romaine hopes to have a ruling on this objection next week.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs, who include a gym owner and two Baptist churches, also spent time questioning Hinshaw on why she didn’t impose restrictions to those over the age of 65 who are at higher risk of adverse reactions from COVID-19.

Hinshaw shared that even if society was willing to put restrictions based on age, numbers show the spread of COVID-19 unabated through the under 60 population would still put a significant strain on the health-care system.

She also pointed out that a third of those aged 30-39 in Alberta have a health condition that puts them at elevated risk from the virus.

Rath also asked Hinshaw about a number of therapeutic therapies that often get shared as ‘cures’ to COVID-19 on social media.

“There were unfortunately no therapies for the first part of the pandemic,” said Hinshaw, maintaining they were watching for high-quality scientific studies, such as randomized control.

The trial is limited to public-health action before summer 2021, as well as any scientific evidence at the time.

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