Bill C-13 – The Federal COVID-19 legislation as well as a dangerous congregation of homeless people in Victoria


Bill C-13: a federal act respecting certain measures in response to COVID-19, has now received royal assent. Several elements of this legislation are discussed on the show.

Bill C-13 created the Emergency Response Benefits Act. This act will provide a monthly payment of $2,000 to people out of work. One important element of the act is that the monthly benefits will not be available to any worker who “quit their employment voluntarily”. So: don’t quit your job if you wish to remain eligible for financial assistance.

Another provision of Bill C-13, that has not received much public attention, are amendments to the Patent Act that permit the Minister of Health to authorize anyone to “make, construct, use and sell a patented invention to the extent necessary to respond to the public health emergency described in the application”. This would permit companies to manufacture things like ventilators, or drugs, that could otherwise be protected by a patent. There is provision for the payment of compensation to the owner of the patent.

Also discussed, in the context of the provincial Public Health Act orders, are the large number of homeless people who are camping, congregating, and lining up together, outside of the Our Place Society facility in the 900-block of Pandora in Victoria.

While Our Place has stopped providing some services, it is still providing three meals a day, washroom, and other services, from its single location. While all with the best of intentions, this has encouraged the unsafe gathering of large numbers of people in close proximity.

Meals, and other services, need to be provided in a distributed fashion, so as to remove the incentive for the large group of homeless people to continue congregating in one place.

Legally Speaking with Michael Mulligan is live on CFAX 1070 every Thursday at 10:30 am.

An automated transcript of the March 26, 2020 show:

Legally Speaking March 26 2020

Adam Stirling [00:00:00] All right, into our second half of our second hour on a Thursday at CFAX 1070, who would normally join us in studio, but he is socially distancing, as are all of us, as we navigate our way through these uncertain times. Michael Mulligan from Mulligan Defence Lawyers with Legally Speaking, how are you doing?

Michael T. Mulligan [00:00:16] I’m doing well. Over here is one of the non-health essential services continuing to practice law. While staying a good distance away from everyone physically.

Adam Stirling [00:00:24] Well, indeed, the courts are a central one, we think so. By extension, officers of the court, lawyers such as yourself, members of the bar, must be essential to some degree.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:00:33] Yes. I think there’s no doubt about that. Just as a fundamental principle of constitutional democracy, you just could not have a circumstance where a person would be unable to get legal assistance if they found themselves arrested or charged with something or in jail. The courts, of course, or Mickey, extraordinary efforts to deal with the extraordinary problems they’re facing, dealing with in custody matters, trying to deal with the urgent things of all sorts, while at the same time trying to keep everyone in the justice system safe. And that’s no small, that’s no small challenge.

Adam Stirling [00:01:11] Let’s take a look at some of the legislation that is being engaged or has been recently introduced regarding the COVID-19 response I see here on the agenda; we have Bill C-13 to start.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:01:21] Yes. So, Bill C-13 is the federal piece of legislation, which was passed the other day, by consent, following some negotiations between all the federal parties. And a number of elements of that are going to be familiar from the good reporting that’s occurred so far. But there are a few interesting points in there that I think people should be aware of, both from their personal perspective and as well in terms of the general response to the emergency. One of the things which I think people should be aware of and there’s been much talk of the emergency assistance that’s going to be provided for employees, both regular employees and contract employees, that sort of thing, people who are self-employed, who were out of work.

Adam Stirling [00:02:15] uh-huh.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:02:15] One of the things which should be people should be aware of is that there is an exclusion there. If somebody ceases work by quitting their employment voluntarily. And so, people might be aware of that who have dealt with the employment insurance system. But they should be equally aware that the provisions that we’re going to provide for that emergency, $2,000 a month for people, including self-employed people, are not available if somebody voluntarily quits their employment. So that, I thought, was something that people should be made aware of so that they don’t take some action that makes them unfortunately ineligible for the available support. So that was one that stood out for me reviewing that act.

Adam Stirling [00:03:02] Interesting. Now refresh my memory, I thought there had also been provisions made so that a person did not need a note or similar medical certificate to take leave from work due to COVID-19 suspected symptoms or self-isolation. My understanding is that this aid was also supposed to be applicable to people in that situation. Or do I have them confused?

Michael T. Mulligan [00:03:23] No. Well, I think what you’re referring to there, and that is also part of this act, they need amendments to the Employment Insurance Act and regulations which deleted the requirement for a certificate from a medical doctor or nurse practitioner, which were otherwise previously requirements for the purpose of somebody claiming a benefit under the Employment Insurance Act.

Adam Stirling [00:03:46] Okay.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:03:47] And we didn’t want everyone having to run off to their already overwhelmed doctors trying to get notes to get EI claims.

Adam Stirling [00:03:55] Interesting.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:03:55] That has been deleted and that makes a lot of sense. But the provisions that have been enacted to provide that emergency assistance for people do contain that provision that does not allow somebody to claim them if they voluntarily quit their employment. So, don’t do that or you may find yourself ineligible according to the wording of that act.

Adam Stirling [00:04:16] Interesting. Okay.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:04:17] Another section and there were I thought was of some interest is there are changes that they’ve made to the patent legislation in Canada. They amended the Patent Act.

Adam Stirling [00:04:28] Yes.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:04:28] And they amended it in such a way that is going to permit companies or individuals to apply to manufacture and sell things that might otherwise be prohibited by virtue of patent.

Adam Stirling [00:04:43] Oh interesting.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:04:44] And it would appear what would be contemplated there would be things like, let’s say there’s a patent for some element of a ventilator, for example.

Adam Stirling [00:04:52] Yes.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:04:52] The idea is that there would be as a result of the public health emergency, the government would be able to authorize somebody to go ahead and start constructing the, you know, ventilator machine without worrying about getting sued for violating the patent some company might have on some portion of that device.

Adam Stirling [00:05:11] Yes.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:05:11] So I thought that was an interesting sleeper provision in there that hasn’t got a whole lot of a whole lot of attention. So far.

Adam Stirling [00:05:19] It reminds me of a news story out of the United States where a couple of enterprising individuals in a hospital that were short on equipment utilized a 3-D printer to design a new valve or part. And apparently, they have since been sued by the owner of the patent that it was similar to that valve for alleged theft of intellectual property.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:05:37] Well, there’s going to be a special place in hell for somebody trying to prevent that.

Adam Stirling [00:05:41] Well, I won’t comment on that. But I do I do recall a headline, though, saying that or similar.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:05:48] Yes. Well, we’re going to we’ve had maybe that’s what prompted this provision. So, in Canada the government will be able to exempt companies so they could go ahead and start producing that sort of emergency equipment without running up against patent infringement claims. So that seems like a, a good move. Certainly, in all of these emergency times.

Adam Stirling [00:06:09] All right.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:06:10] So that is very positive.

Adam Stirling [00:06:11] All right. I want to take our first break here a couple of minutes early as we continue with Legally Speaking for Michael Mulligan with Mulligan Defence Lawyers, second half of our second hour every Thursday.

[00:06:20] COMMERCIAL.

Adam Stirling [00:06:20] And all right, we’re back on the air here at CFAX 1070. Michael Mulligan for Mulligan Defence Lawyers as we continue with Legally Speaking, Michael, we were talking about Bill C-13. Not the only piece of legislation, though, being engaged by various levels of government currently.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:06:34] No, that’s quite true. And provincially, we’ve had the Public Health Act and we just had the ministerial order announced under the Emergency Program Act. One of the other essential services identified in that Emergency Program Act ministerial order. It was the provision of food and shelter and social services to vulnerable populations. Now in Victoria, there appears to be a very significant problem developing in that regard. I drove my way home yesterday and this morning on my way in, down the 900 block of Pandora.

Adam Stirling [00:07:13] Yeah.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:07:13] Outside of Our Place. And it is very, very troubling what’s going on there. There is a large collection of tents, but beyond that, there are conglomerations of people, groups of people socializing and lining up to get into Our Place, all close together, old talking, sharing things, socializing. This morning, as I drove past there, there was somebody appeared to be laying on the sidewalk with an ambulance and fire truck, probably applying Narcan or something of that sort. Emergency services, workers wearing masks and gloves trying to do that. What’s happened is that Our Place, well, they are limiting the shelter and some of the other services that they’ve provided are continuing to provide meals three times a day and bathroom services.

Adam Stirling [00:08:01] Yes.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:08:03] All certainly with the very best of intentions. But the result of that is that you’ve got this very large conglomeration of people who are homeless. They are lining up in close proximity, living in close proximity and engaging in very dangerous behaviour. And to my mind, that’s something which simply has to stop and stop immediately.

Adam Stirling [00:08:31] Yes.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:08:32] So if somebody is listening to this in terms of what other orders might be made immediately, it strikes me that one of the things that has to occur immediately is that the provision of food and social services in that central location at Our Place simply needs to stop and stop. Now, that aid is obviously critical, but it just cannot be delivered in the way that it’s currently being delivered because it’s causing large groups of people to line up for it. And you can just see if you drive past there, that conglomeration of people who are socializing and engaging in other activity in close proximity, putting themselves in great jeopardy, because that is location, a central single location where that is being provided. So, it strikes me that if that for that help to be continued to be provided, meals for example, that has to be done in some distributed way to end the conglomeration of people in that single location. And where the services are provided, they’re causing everyone to congregate there. It’s not, in my judgement, realistic to expect that we’re going to solve that problem by sending in, as was suggested, a municipal bylaw officers or police to deal with it. It puts them and their families in tremendous jeopardy. So certainly, what I thought as I drove by watching the ambulance attendants trying to assist this poor person who is laying on the ground.

Adam Stirling [00:10:06] Yes.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:10:06] There is also as security person who appeared be walking back into the area; no gloves, no mask, no nothing. It would be a danger to walk down the sidewalk in that part of the city. There are so many people so densely packed into that area. And if something to my mind is to be done immediately and promptly, that would be one of the things which needs to happen right now. Another, I think, sad commentary in terms of what’s happening is one of my colleagues I was speaking to yesterday, advised that when he drove home through the Rock Bay area, there was a noticeably larger than usual number of people who were engaged in street prostitution. And that is a very sad state of affairs…

Adam Stirling [00:10:53] oh my goodness.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:10:53] …A consequence of this. One of the things, of course. You’ve got stores, many of the people who are homeless are, of course, the vast majority would suffer from a combination, one or both, often both, of mental illness and drug addiction. That is just what that population is suffering from.

Adam Stirling [00:11:10] Yes.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:11:11] And the drug addiction, of course, is utterly unsustainable without money. And you’ve got a circumstance now where businesses are shut. Some of that money is coming, of course, from things like shoplifting, which was a problem recently in the downtown area. Businesses are shut. There aren’t going to be the same number of cars that might be broken into. People are at home. The practical reality for people who are addicted to drugs because there is no other way to obtain them is an increase in that sort of just tragic activity. That’s what people are being driven to. And, you know, we’ve spoken before about drug laws and their effect. But one of the effects of criminalizing drugs in the current circumstance of emergency is that people are being driven to that activity, and that is just not an acceptable state of affairs. You know, we’ve made efforts dealing with things like safe injection sites. There is provision to provide exemptions for drugs to be provided to people who are addicted. And to my mind, in the current times, with the current risks that are there, having people turning in larger numbers to street prostitution in order to be able to finance a drug addiction is a tragedy. It puts them in grave jeopardy. It puts others in grave jeopardy. And so in addition to taking steps to stop people being encouraged to congregate in a single area for social services, we ought to give some consideration, particularly in these emergent times, not to have people driven to engage in this sort of activity that’s going on in larger numbers in the Rock Bay community.

Adam Stirling [00:13:12] I hadn’t even consider that, to be totally honest with you, Michael, as one of the emerging factors that would have to be managed by both police as well as the courts, as well as just public officials in general, given the sheer magnitude of the disruption to the economy right now, the drug trade, the sex trade, those cannot help, but by extension also being impacted. And the people in those positions are, in my view, putting themselves in profound danger by continuing that activity.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:13:40] There’s no doubt about that. And people who are engaged in who are living on the street, as they’ve said, are there almost to the one as a result of either or both have mental illness or drug addiction. Living that lifestyle is itself on a daily basis, putting your own life in grave jeopardy.

Adam Stirling [00:14:00] Yes.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:14:01] And the reality now is that continuing to do that is placing both those individuals and others in grave jeopardy. And it’s not likely to be effective, threatening to prosecute the mentally ill person with a drug addiction.

Adam Stirling [00:14:18] No

Michael T. Mulligan [00:14:18] Now under the Public Health Act. Nor is it likely to be effective sending in municipal workers to try to or bylaw inspectors or something to try to enforce that. That’s simply going to put the bylaw inspectors or police officers and their families at great risk. But what we could do, I think, and we should be doing, immediately, and frankly, order or no order; we should be stopping the provision of intended to be helpful services in a central location in a way that’s causing everyone who or many people who were in that position in our community to congregate and put themselves and others at grave risk. And that is something which we can and should do. Those services need to be provided, but they just need to be provided in a different way. Perhaps they need to be provided by a van or a food truck or something in a distributed fashion. But offering three meals a day from a single location downtown is creating a, obvious, complete tragedy and risk to everyone, including the emergency responders who were there this morning.

Adam Stirling [00:15:31] Yes.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:15:31] It’s just not acceptable. And that is something that we can rationally and should be doing right now.

Adam Stirling [00:15:36] Well, we do know that there are steps being taken to create three similar areas Royal Athletic Park, Beacon Hill Park, as well as Topaz Park. And I suspect the reason it is three instead of one is trying to disperse the provision of needed goods and services, food, in this case, as you mentioned, Michael. I can’t help a worry, though. It will turn one problem into three problems that will be indistinguishable in terms of their magnitude. What do you think?

Michael T. Mulligan [00:16:01] That may be so, having people in close proximity anywhere is going to be placing people in jeopardy. In the current context asking people to try to manage those things is going to place the people who are trying to manage it in grave jeopardy. Can you imagine being the ambulance attendant who’s called out to deal with the drug overdose in the middle of a large conglomeration of people on March 26? When you’ve got all the quite reasonable emergency declarations going out about the importance of social distancing. That’s just a very difficult thing to be asking somebody to do and trying to manage those sorts of operations in the best of times when we don’t have the current emergency is very challenging. There will also be real issues about whether people are going to be accepting of all of that, because we know things like they talk about Royal Athletic Park having controlled access to it.

Adam Stirling [00:17:04] Yeah, I don’t know how that’s really going to work. I need to see it to understand it.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:17:07] But also imagine this. Do you want to be the person who’s charged with managing the entry to Royal Athletic Park?

Adam Stirling [00:17:13] I hope I’m wearing a hazmat suit.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:17:15] Right. Who’s being tasked with that?

Adam Stirling [00:17:17] I don’t know.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:17:18] Right. That is itself going to be very challenging. And so. Well, it’s going to be interesting to see whether that’s possible in the immediate thing we need to do is stop the centralized provision of the services that are currently being provided because it’s creating a grave risk to everyone involved. And that’s something which could occur today.

Adam Stirling [00:17:41] Yeah.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:17:42] And we will need to work out the provision of the how, how support through to be provided. I mentioned a couple of alternatives. Maybe provide food by van in different locations, drive through the parks. However, that has to be done. But doing it in a central location seems just to me not a wise course of action. And as I said, managing people, you can tell and it’s not irrational, people are already, who are using opioids on a daily basis and who are addicted, are already risking their lives on a daily basis and are being deterred from that behaviour. Now, however, there’s a circumstance where that behaviour is not only a grave threat to those individuals, but it’s a grave threat to anyone and everyone is being asked, both to deal with them directly, and the implications that it’s going to have for the health system more generally. So, we need action on that right now.

Adam Stirling [00:18:40] All right. Well, hopefully we’ll see that action occurring as soon as possible. Michael Mulligan with Mulligan Defence Lawyers, Legally Speaking, second half of our second hour every Thursday. Normally, and ordinarily, in studio, but we are practicing social distancing guidelines, as is everyone else right now. Ideally. Michael Mulligan, thank you for your knowledge and insight, as always. Any final thoughts?

Michael T. Mulligan [00:18:59] No, thank you very much for having me. And hopefully we see some change in what’s going on by this time next week.

Adam Stirling [00:19:06] All right. Take care.

Michael T. Mulligan [00:19:07] Very good. Thank you.

Adam Stirling [00:19:08] Bye now Michael Mulligan is counsel with Mulligan Defence Lawyers, Legally Speaking every week here on CFAX 1070.

Automatically Transcribed on March 26, 2020 – MULLIGAN DEFENCE LAWYERS