By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Steve Pickard thinks Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health is overstepping his bounds.
The Chatham lawyer is upset that Dr. David Colby has lowered the limits on indoor gatherings to 10 from 25.
In a recent interview with The Chatham Voice, Pickard said Colby’s selection of the number 10 is “arbitrary.”
“Did he just pick 10 as a number without any reasonable basis?” the attorney questioned.
Pickard recently sent a letter to local media that disagreed with Colby’s new rules of limiting indoor gatherings, saying the letter of intention wasn’t properly addressing Section 22 of Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act.
Pickard took issue with the wording, saying the document was illegal.
He also believes the rules are a “significant infringement” on people’s rights, as well as being a charter violation.
Pickard said the rules are not enforceable and questioned what will happen if someone is charged for violating new HPPA rules Colby has outlined.
The Section 22 regulations could be challenged in two ways, Pickard said. A formal challenge against the legislation can be made to the Chatham-Kent Board of Health, which in turn has 15 days to respond.
The second method, he said, is to bring the matter before a Superior Court justice.
“Either way, it winds its way to a judge,” Pickard noted.
The burden of proof is on Colby, Pickard said, to prove it’s necessary to lower the amount of people who can congregate indoors to 10.
When it was pointed out Colby’s actions are an attempt to lower local rates of COVID-19 – to take pressure off the hospital – Pickard said the people spreading the virus should be the ones targeted.
Pickard, who is fully vaccinated, said he understands that gatherings of people are the main method of transmitting the virus but not everyone should be targeted.
“In practical terms it’s not enforceable,” he added. “Are police going to get a warrant to see how many people are at Christmas dinner?” he said.
The lawyer called Colby’s new restrictions “grinchy.”
Pickard said that while he’s not advocating for breaking the law, he said people are obligated to speak up when they see something wrong, adding he won’t be following the new guidelines, and will be enjoying the holidays with family and friends, all of whom are vaccinated.
In a municipal media scrum late last week, Dr. Colby announced a slight amendment to his original letter of intent, covering off the legal loophole he was criticized for.
The Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit’s changes for indoor gatherings came into effect Dec. 10.