Skip to content

COVID-19 public health emergency in Newfoundland and Labrador – what you need to know

John Samms and Amanda Whitehead

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;
  • cinemas;
  • 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.

SHARE

Archive

Search Archive


 
 

Compensation for expropriation: Fair, but not more than fair

June 17, 2024

By Erin Best, Stephen Penney, Robert Bradley, Megan Kieley1 and Elizabeth Fleet1 Expropriation is a live issue in Canadian courts. The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to broaden the test for constructive expropriation in Annapolis…

Read More

Changes affecting federally regulated employers

June 10, 2024

By Killian McParland and Sophie Poulos There have been many changes in recent months affecting employers governed by federal labour and employment laws. In September 2024, Stewart McKelvey will be hosting a webinar to review…

Read More

Impending changes to Nova Scotia’s Workers’ Compensation Act – Gradual onset stress

June 4, 2024

By Mark Tector and Annie Gray What’s changing? Currently, workers’ compensation coverage in Nova Scotia applies to only a narrow subset of psychological injuries. Specifically, in Nova Scotia – as in all Atlantic Provinces –…

Read More

Appeal Courts uphold substantial costs awards for regulators

May 22, 2024

By Sean Kelly & Michiko Gartshore Professional regulators can incur substantial costs through discipline processes. These costs are often associated with investigations, hearings as well as committee member expenses and are an unfortunate by-product of…

Read More

Less than two weeks to go … Canada Supply Chain Transparency Reports are due May 31st

May 21, 2024

By Christine Pound, ICD.D., Twila Reid, ICD.D., Sarah Dever Letson, CIPP/C, Sheila Mecking, Hilary Newman, and Daniel Roth Introduction The first reports under the Fighting Against Forced Labour and Child Labour in Supply Chains Act (the…

Read More

Court upheld municipality’s refusal to disclose investigation report

May 1, 2024

By Sheila Mecking and Sarah Dever Letson A recent decision out of the Court of King’s Bench of New Brunswick,[1] upheld the Municipality of Tantramar’s decision to withhold a Workplace Assessment Report under section 20(1)…

Read More

Occupational Health and Safety sentencing decision – Nova Scotia

April 29, 2024

By Sean Kelly & Tiegan Scott Earlier this month, the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia issued its sentencing decision in R v The Brick Warehouse LP, 2024 NSPC 26, imposing a monetary penalty of $143,750 (i.e.,…

Read More

Canada 2024 Federal Budget paves the way for Open Banking

April 22, 2024

By Kevin Landry On April 15, 2024, the Canadian federal budget was released. Connected to the budget was an explanation of the framework for Canada’s proposed implementation of Open Banking (sometimes called consumer-driven banking). This follows…

Read More

Reset for renewables: Nova Scotia overhauls energy regulation and governance in advance of influx of renewable energy

April 5, 2024

By Nancy Rubin and James Gamblin The Government of Nova Scotia has embarked on a path to dramatically reshape the regulation and governance of the energy sector with the passage of Bill 404, the Energy…

Read More

An employer’s guide to human rights law in Atlantic Canada

April 2, 2024

By Kathleen Starke and Annie Gray Human rights landscape Human rights legislation prohibits discrimination in specific contexts, including employment and the provision of services. In all Atlantic Provinces, Human Rights Commissions are responsible for enforcing…

Read More

Search Archive


Scroll To Top