Landmark Alberta Court Ruling on COVID Policies

 By Lisa McPhee, Open Arms Content Writer | September 18, 2023

brown wooden tool on white surface

On July 31, 2023, a pivotal event occurred in Alberta that has the potential to reshape the province’s approach to handling the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Alberta Court of King’s Bench under the leadership of Justice Barbara Romaine, delivered a landmark ruling that challenges the very foundation of the COVID policies carried out by the cabinet. The ruling has raised questions about the division of powers, the role of public health officials and the future effects on the lives of Albertans.

The Ruling Explained

Justice Romaine’s ruling centered around the issue of authority in implementing COVID policies. The heart of her argument was that the authority to impose and execute pandemic-related policies should rest primarily with the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) rather than the provincial cabinet. The ruling highlighted that the CMOH possesses the medical expertise necessary to make informed decisions that directly impact public health.

Division of Powers

One of the key takeaways from Justice Romaine’s decision is the importance on the division of powers. This ruling highlighted the need to ensure a clear separation between the roles of public health experts and elected officials. The cabinet, representing the government, is responsible for policy decisions that balance numerous aspects of society, including the economy and individual rights. On the other hand, the CMOH is tasked with safeguarding the health and well-being of the public based on both medical and scientific evidence.

Impact on Albertans

The aftermath of the ruling has left many Albertans wondering about its potential effects on their daily lives. One prominent impact is the potential shift towards a more science-driven and evidence-based approach to handling the pandemic. With the CMOH obtaining more authority, decisions regarding lockdowns, mask mandates and vaccination campaigns are likely to be guided by medical expertise rather than political considerations. This could lead to more consistent and focused measures aimed at controlling the spread of the virus.

Balancing Health and Liberties

However, the ruling also brings to light the delicate balance between public health and individual liberties. While the CMOH’s authority ensures a more targeted response to the pandemic, concerns arise about potential infringements on personal freedoms. Striking the right balance between executing necessary restrictions and respecting individual rights will be an ongoing challenge for Alberta authorities.

Collaboration and Transparency

Justice Romaine’s ruling emphasizes the importance of collaboration and transparency between public health officials and the government. The decision underscores that both bodies should work together to develop and implement effective pandemic policies. This collaboration ensures that medical expertise informs policy decisions while maintaining democratic governance.


Moving forward, the effects of this ruling are likely to be far-reaching. Firstly, a more streamlined decision-making process can be expected, as the COMH’s recommendations are likely to carry greater weight.  This could lead to quicker responses to emerging pandemic challenges. Moreover, the ruling sets a precedent for future health crises, emphasizing the pivotal role of medical professionals in guiding policy responses.


Justice Barbara Romaine’s ruling on July 31, 2023, has ignited dialogs about the division of powers, collaboration between public health officials and the government, and the future course of pandemic polices in Alberta. The decision to give greater authority to the CMOH emphasizes the critical role of medical expertise in navigating the complex COVID-19 pandemic. As Albertans adapt to this novel approach, finding the equilibrium between protecting public health and upholding personal freedoms will undoubtedly be an ongoing journey.

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