Coronavirus: Civil liberties advocates urge people to remain vigilant about their rights

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While Canadians monitor their bodies for signs of COVID-19 symptoms, civil liberties advocates and human rights lawyers are urging citizens to also keep track of the possible erosion of democratic rights.

The ongoing states of emergencies across the country have given authorities sweeping new powers, and police forces have started — or are considering — using cell phone data to track the movement of people.

Civil rights advocates say citizens need to remain hyper-vigilant about how authorities are using these new powers, and what kind of legacy will be left once the pandemic is over.

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Montreal-based human rights lawyer Pearl Eliadis said despite the emergency orders, “the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has not disappeared.”

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“The government has more leeway to do certain things because of the emergency powers and we should all agree and obey with those, but at the same time, people need to know what their rights are under the act,” she said in a recent interview.

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On Friday, Quebec City’s police chief said his officers used cell phone data to track and arrest a COVID-19-infected woman in March who allegedly violated an order to self-isolate. Robert Pigeon told reporters that so-called geolocation is “absolutely at our disposal” to track a suspect.

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