Government legislative authority to direct measures during COVID-19

Saskatchewan has declared a state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic. The province’s legislative authority to declare this state of emergency can be found under The Emergency Planning Act (the “Act”). Measures taken by the provincial government under the Act can include the introduction of an emergency plan, the control or prohibition of travel within the province and acquiring a resident’s property which is deemed necessary to prevent, combat or alleviate the effects of the emergency (with compensation). A provincial declaration of emergency and any subsequent orders will take precedence over municipal declarations and orders.

The Government of Saskatchewan has introduced amendments to The Saskatchewan Employment Act (“SEA”) and multiple Public Health Orders to combat COVID-19. First, the government has made sick leave under the SEA available to all employees, regardless of how long they have been employed. The government also introduced a new “public health emergency leave”, where employees may go on unpaid leave for the duration of the public health orders (click here for a summary of the public health emergency leave). Second, the Minister of Health and Chief Medical Health Officer has the authority to introduce Public Health Orders, according to s. 38 and s. 45(2) of The Public Health Act, 1994, to combat the transmission of COVID-19. If a Saskatchewan resident or corporation contravenes one of the orders made pursuant to the Act, the provincial government has the power to fine that individual or business $2,000 or $10,000, respectively (see s. 16 of the Act).

The Government of Saskatchewan has released Re-Open Saskatchewan, a five-phase plan to reopen the province’s economy as the COVID-19 curve continues to be flattened. Re-Open Saskatchewan is mandated under the authority of the Public Health Orders and the Act. As of June 2, 2020, Saskatchewan is in Phase Two with a target date for Phase Three being June 8, 2020. For information on the phases of Re-Open Saskatchewan and a full list of Public Health Orders, please click here.

Federally, the Government of Canada has legislative power under the Quarantine Act and Emergencies Act to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of the Quarantine Act is to protect public health by taking comprehensive measures to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases. The Quarantine Act grants the power to direct and control international travellers or others at entry or departure points of the country who might have an infectious disease. On March 26, 2020, the federal government declared mandatory 14-day isolation for any traveller returning to Canada under the Quarantine Act, whether you have symptoms of COVID-19 or not. Contravention of these restrictions may lead to fines of up to $1,000,000 and jail time up to three years. For more information on the federal restrictions, please click here.

The Emergencies Act, previously known as the War Measures Act, grants the Government of Canada the power to declare four types of emergencies: public welfare, public order, international and war emergencies. Section 8 of the Emergencies Act outlines the exceptional powers granted to the federal government in a public welfare emergency, which the COVID-19 pandemic would classify as. Such powers can include the prohibition of travel to, from or within the country, the evacuation of people, the requisition, use or disposition of a citizen’s property and the establishment of emergency shelters or hospitals. As of June 2, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not declared a public welfare emergency.

For more information, please contact:

Brett J. Maerz


Email: [email protected]

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Articles & ResearchGovernment legislative authority to direct measures during COVID-19