The mayor of Alberta’s largest city says he’s frustrated to hear that tickets given to people for breaching COVID-19 public health orders are being thrown out in the courts.
“I think it’s handcuffing the police and their work and we need to do much, much better,” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Monday, calling the situation “incredibly frustrating.”
“I’m calling on the court system to take this as seriously as the police do.”
Large groups have regularly been gathering in Calgary public spaces without masks and in violation of group limits in protest of health measures.
Nenshi said police have been better able to use their power to crack down on vandalism and harassment at those events than they have on the violations of public health orders.
“In one really disgusting way, the escalation of these activities has actually given the police a little more ability,” he said. “It’s like Al Capone on tax evasion.”
Nenshi made his comments during a city council meeting that included a presentation by Calgary Police Commission chairwoman Bonita Croft.
“(Police) are putting significant resources into managing these protests, attending these events and doing their best to enforce the health orders,” she said.
“And the response is to continue to violate them. And the accountability in terms of convictions and fines have not been at a level that seems to be working to change the course of all that.”
Premier Jason Kenney and Alberta’s chief medical officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, were to hold a news conference later Monday about COVID-19 and Alberta’s vaccine rollout.
Both are likely to face questions about what consequences, if any, there will be for attendees of a “No More Lockdowns” rodeo held in central Alberta over the weekend in flagrant violation of public health rules.
At the Calgary city council meeting, Nenshi said people need to understand the rules for gatherings, mask wearing and other measures aren’t just guidelines.
“Even though the premier sometimes doesn’t sound firm on this, this is actually the law,” he said. “And it’s important that everyone follow the law because we live in a democratic society.”
Kenney, in a series of Twitter posts on Sunday, scolded the rodeo-goers near the community of Bowden.
“Not only are gatherings like this a threat to public health, they are a slap in the face to everybody who is observing the rules to keep themselves and their fellow Albertans safe,” Kenney wrote.
“If we do not begin to bend the curve, our health-care system could very well be overwhelmed in a matter of weeks.”
Alberta Health Services and the RCMP did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday about any potential enforcement arising from the anti-lockdown rodeo. A spokesman for Justice Minister Kaycee Madu referred to Kenney’s Sunday statement.
Alberta had a record 2,433 new COVID-19 infections on Saturday and the province has Canada’s worst rate of COVID-19 cases. As of Sunday, Alberta had a seven-day rate of 296 cases per 100,000 people, with Ontario the next highest at 170.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2021.
Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press