COVID-19 public health emergency in Newfoundland and Labrador – what you need to know
This article sets out to summarize the Newfoundland and Labrador Government’s announcements in respect of its latest response to the COVID-19 pandemic as of approximately 3:00 p.m. on March 19, 2020. In our review, we identified that businesses and workplaces constitute a grey area in the current regime insofar as the restriction on “gatherings of more than 50 people” is concerned. The NL Government authorities have since confirmed that businesses not explicitly ordered to close that employ greater than 50 people at any given time are not “gatherings” for the purposes of the Special Measures Order. As stated by Dr. Fitzgerald, the Newfoundland and Labrador Chief Medical Officer of Health, in her latest news conference:
Businesses that employ more than 50 people, that do not fall into one of [the listed] groups, are not required to close. These employers are advised to put measures in place that respect the principles of social distancing and to allow work from home as much as possible
Declaration of Public Emergency
On March 18, 2020, the Newfoundland and Labrador Minister of Health, John Haggie, signed a Declaration of a Public Emergency (“Declaration”) under section 27 of the Public Health Protection and Promotion Act (“the Act”), on the advice of the Newfoundland and Labrador Chief Medical Officer of Health.
The Declaration expires no more than 14 days after it is made, unless the Minister, on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, extends the Declaration for an additional period of 14 days. There is no limit on the number of extensions that may be declared, provided that at the time of each extension the ‘public health emergency continues to exist’ and ‘the extension is required to protect the health of the population’.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, then issued a Special Measures Order under section 28 of the Act – her signature is dated March 19, 2020.
The powers granted to the Chief Medical Officer of Health once a declaration has been made are numerous. Of particular relevance are the following powers available to the Chief Medical Officer of Health:
- (h) make orders restricting travel to or from the province or an area within the province;
- (i) order the closure of any educational setting or place of assembly; [Note that place of assembly is not defined in the Act]
- (k) take any other measure the Chief Medical Officer of Health reasonably believes is necessary for the protection of the health of the population during the public health emergency.
The fines applicable to businesses who contravene the orders are $5,000 – $50,000 for a first offence, and $5,000 – $100,000 for a subsequent offence. Individuals may be fined $500 – $2,500 for a first offence, and $500 – $5,000 for a subsequent offence. Individuals may also be subject to imprisonment for not more than six months. Each day of contravention is a separate offence. Additionally, directors and officers of a corporation may be personally liable for offences committed by a corporation.
Special Measures Order
The Special Measures Order requires the following businesses to be closed immediately:
- gyms and fitness facilities, including yoga studios, tennis and squash facilities;
- dance studios;
- performance spaces;
- arenas; and
- businesses that hold a license under the Liquor Control Act whose primary purpose is the consumption of beer, wine, or spirits and that do not otherwise qualify as an exception under this order.
The Special Measures Order also mandates that:
- Bingo halls close;
- Restaurants close for in-person dining unless that restaurant can operate at fifty percent of its regular capacity and can maintain appropriate social distancing in accordance with guidelines from the Chief Medical Officer of Health. Further, buffets are prohibited.
- Gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited.
- All individuals returning from outside Canada must self-isolate for 14 days, including those individuals returning from the United States of America.
Prohibitions on gatherings of more than 50 people – does this include workplaces?
The measures described above did not explicitly prohibit the operation of businesses/workplaces, though gatherings of 50 people within the workplace are likely prohibited. Taking the orders and public statements from the provincial authorities as a whole, groups greater than 50 likely ought not to be working directly together and social distancing guidelines ought to be adhered to.
On the afternoon of March 19, 2020, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald confirmed that businesses not explicitly ordered to close that employ greater than 50 people at any given time are not “gatherings” for the purposes of the Special Measures Order.
If you are uncertain on where your business stands in relation to this order, or if you have any questions, please contact the authors of this piece as we would be happy to assist.
This article is provided for general information only.
Click here to subscribe to Stewart McKelvey Thought Leadership.
By Christine Pound, ICD.D, Rebecca Saturley, & Daniel Roth Canada’s anti-modern slavery legislation comes into force on January 1, 2024. To prepare for the first reporting deadline on May 31, 2024, organizations need to determine…Read More
By Brian Johnston, K.C. and Richard Jordan On November 9, 2023, Minister of Labour, Seamus O’Regan, introduced Bill C-58 in the House of Commons to amend the Canada Labour Code to prohibit the use of…Read More
By Kevin Landry & Eryka Gregory The Retail Payment Activities Regulations (“Regulations”) under the Retail Payment Activities Act (“RPAA”) were finalized and published in the Canada Gazette Part II on November 23, 2023. The RPAA was…Read More
By Kevin Landry On November 9 2023, Bill C-365, An Act respecting the implementation of a consumer-led banking system for Canadians (“C-365”), short titled as the ‘Consumer-led Banking Act’ was read in the House of…Read More
By Jennifer Taylor The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal (“NSCA”) has issued an important decision clarifying the test to disallow a limitations defence. The decision, Halifax (Regional Municipality) v Carvery (“Carvery”), has real implications for personal…Read More
By Deanne MacLeod, K.C., Burtley Francis & David Slipp On September 21, 2023, the Federal Government introduced Bill C-56: An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act and the Competition Act (“Bill C-56”), with the…Read More
By Nancy Rubin, K.C. and Lauren Agnew The long-awaited Green Choice Program Regulations (N.S. Reg. 155/2023) were released by the provincial government on September 8, 2023, offering some clarity into the practical implementation of Nova…Read More
By Koren Thomson, John Samms, and Matthew Raske The Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal has held that the Information and Privacy Commissioner for this province (the “Commissioner”) does not have the authority to order…Read More
By Perlene Morrison, K.C. Municipalities are required to pass code of conduct bylaws in accordance with section 107 of the Municipal Government Act (the “MGA”). Subsection 107(1) of the MGA specifically states that a municipality’s…Read More
By Sheila Mecking and Kathleen Starke On August 23, 2023, the Ontario Superior Court (“ONSC”) upheld a complaints decision which ordered a psychologist to complete a continuing education or remedial program regarding professionalism in public…Read More