Some have argued that making masks mandatory in enclosed public areas doesn’t respect the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms (Charter). The courts have not yet decided the matter. However, the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (CDPDJ or human rights commission) has given its opinion.
A reasonable limitation of rights
Does a mandatory mask order violate the Charter? The Charter guarantees many different rights of Quebec citizens. This includes individual liberty, freedom of expression, and the right to privacy. However, these rights are not absolute. This means that the government can justify restricting these rights in some cases. The question is whether the measures taken by the government meet the following criteria:
The measure taken addresses a real and urgent objective
The objective of the mask order is to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Quebec.
The measure has a rational link with the government’s objective
The CDPDJ concluded that there seems to be a rational link between the objective (the safety and security of the public) and the measure taken (mandatory masks in enclosed public spaces).
The measure is proportional to the objective sought and restricts citizens’ rights as little as possible
In this case, the restriction of freedom is proportional to the objective because it’s limited to enclosed public spaces.
However, the CDPDJ stated that the justification for the mask order should be regularly evaluated as the situation evolves and the science advances. The Commission invited the government to be transparent with the public about the measures it takes.
The CDPDJ: an independent institution
The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse is independent of the government. Its mission is to promote and uphold the principles of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
The CDPDJ is also responsible for telling the government whether a law, decree, or regulation appears to violate the Charter. The CDPDJ must then make recommendations to the government on how to address the problem.