CBC News has obtained an unredacted copy of a lawsuit launched by an anti-vaccination advocacy group against the government response to the coronavirus crisis, the details of which can now be independently verified and publicly reported for the first time.
The lawsuit was filed July 6 in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto by Aylmer, Ont.-based Vaccine Choice Canada and seven individuals. The legal action is a challenge under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms to the country's pandemic response measures, including compulsory face masks, the closure of businesses and the enforcement of physical distancing.
The plaintiffs are suing the governments of Canada and Ontario, the City of Toronto, senior politicians, a number of local Ontario health authorities, health officials and the CBC over their response to the pandemic.
The suit states that the closure of businesses to prevent the spread of the virus was "extreme, unwarranted and unjustified," that self-isolation measures imposed on individuals were "not scientific, nor medically based nor proven" and that the mandatory wearing of face coverings in some public spaces imposes "physical and psychological harm."
The lawsuit alleges that the measures violate Sections 2 (right of association), 7 (life, liberty and security of the person), 8 (unlawful search and seizure), 9 (arbitrary detention of enforcement officers) and 15 (equality before and under the law) of the charter.
"The measures ... are further not in accordance with the tenets of fundamental justice in their overbreadth, nor are they justified under S.1 of the charter in that they are demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society," the lawsuit states.
Vaccince Choice Canada describes itself as a watchdog organization whose mandate is "to empower families to make educated, voluntary, and informed decisions about vaccination," but public health authorities have criticized the group for spreading false or misleading information about vaccines and immunization.
Names of plaintiffs redacted for fear of harassment
While copies of the 191-page statement of claim exist online, the names and stories of some of the individual plaintiffs have been redacted on the documents by the plaintiffs themselves. Social media posts from Rocco Galati, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said it was done out of precaution to protect the individuals from harassment.
CBC News has agreed not to name the individuals, who range from a former professor to working parents, a chiropractor and people living with chronic illnesses or disabilities.
No date has been set for when the case will go to court, and it's unclear whether a judge will allow it to proceed.
The lawsuit is seeking $1 million in general damages and $10 million in punitive damages, plus legal costs.
No statements of defence have been filed in the case.
Legal scholar says lawsuit has claims worth examining
Among the personal stories contained in the statement of claim is that of a 23-year-old Hamilton man with autism who has the emotional capacity of a four-year-old. His guardian claims in the suit that the man doesn't have the capacity to understand pandemic health measures, which have "totally mentally devastated" him by depriving him of his routines and his social and emotional network.
Another account is of a Mississauga woman who says she can't wear a mask because it triggers a traumatic memory of having a mask forcibly held over her face during a sexual assault.
The claim states the woman is often faced with a choice when she goes out in public without a mask: risk being embarrassed by disclosing her private history or be denied service at local businesses.
"I don't think we need to violate people's privacy or have them disclose medical conditions, particularly in the context of a private business," said Jacob Shelley, an assistant professor of health law and ethics at Western University in London, Ont., who examined an unredacted copy of the lawsuit provided by CBC News.
"We need to have a discussion about what does it mean to mandate masks. What does it mean to have everyone wear masks when you're indoors and you can't socially distance, because I think there are going to be legitimate instances where people are going to be unable or unwilling to wear a mask for reasons that really are their own.
"There's lucid, valid, potential issues that maybe are worth being adjudicated before the court."
Shelley said given the content of the lawsuit, a public debate over masks risks being overshadowed by other claims that aren't supported by science.
"The 'pandemic' is false, and the measures phony, designed and implemented for improper and ulterior purposes, at the behest of the WHO, controlled and directed by billionaire, corporate oligarchs," the statement of claim says.
"The plaintiffs state, and the fact is, that the evidence is that far many more people have died as a result of the 'pandemic' measures themselves than purportedly from the 'COVID-19 deaths,' even if one takes the deaths 'caused' by COVID as a given."
Other lawsuit claims
Other claims made in the lawsuit are unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic.
"Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology report the development of a novel way to record a patient's vaccination history by using smartphone-readable nano crystals called 'quantum dots,' embedded in the skin using micro-needles. In short, a vaccine chip embedded in the body. This work and research are funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation," the lawsuit said.
The statement of claim includes a timeline that begins in the year 2000 when Bill Gates steps down as the head of Microsoft to start the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It also states Gates expects a "'twenty-fold' return on his $10 billion vaccine investment within the next few decades."
Included in the timeline are references to the Chinese military, 5G networks, international vaccine programs and the Rockefeller Foundation as relevant to the creation and spread of the coronavirus, but the lawsuit isn't clear on how.
Shelley said including such references in the statement of claim without providing supporting scientific evidence could ultimately be what gets the suit dismissed before it goes to trial under Ontario's rules of civil procedure.
CBC News reached out multiple times to Galati, who is listed as the spokesperson for the lawsuit in a press release issued by Vaccine Choice Canada. He spoke with a reporter last Wednesday but did not agree to an on-the-record interview.
Galati told CBC News he would be available last Thursday for a recorded interview but did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday or the following Monday.
The CBC has also been named as a defendant in the lawsuit for allegedly propagating misinformation and "false news" about the coronavirus crisis.
Vaccine Choice Canada has also issued an intent to sue the CBC over other coverage relating to the anti-vaccination and anti-mask movements.