In a world of political monkey-see-monkey-do, in which our own Prime Minister has assured that “there is nothing we won’t do” to keep Canadians safe, comes a new and credible threat to Canadians’ privacy, freedoms, and democratic institutions from the other side of the globe.
On May 8th, New Zealand was applauded for proactively publishing several dozen papers that Cabinet or Cabinet Committees had considered in relation to the country’s COVID-19 response. Mere days later, and within 24 hours, New Zealand passed the COVID 19 Public Health Response Act. The new law gives the government and police extraordinarily wide powers, which the government claims are needed as New Zealand eases its COVID-19-related restrictions on people and businesses.
Privacy and civil liberties proponents who received the draft bill were given 16 hours (overnight) to review, comment, and make recommendations — few of which were implemented.
• The final text reduced the duration of the law from 2 years to 3 months — but that can be rolled over and renewed (à la USA PATRIOT Act).
• The law allows warrantless police entry into people’s homes and businesses.
• Police constables, and a new class of ‘enforcement officers’, have to report on the exercise of their powers, but the requirement is very vague.
• The law does not require data to be collected about how the powers are used in relation to people’s age, ethnicity, or gender.
• The law does not require public reporting on the use of the sweeping police powers.
• The law allows police and enforcement officers to close any public place.
• The law allows “enforcement officers” to “direct a person to give the person’s full name, full address, date of birth, occupation, and telephone number.”
The final Act is here.
The NZ Human Rights Commissioner said the law “is a great failure of the democratic process”.
Never Again is now.