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Moose Jaw police issued zero pandemic-related tickets during rally on Canada Day

'There were no tickets handed out. Each situation the Moose Jaw Police Service deals with is dealt (with) separately and objectively. The organizers of the (Canada Day) event tried to comply with the health order'

There were zero pandemic-related tickets handed out during the Standing in Integrity Rally on Canada Day, according to the Moose Jaw Police Service.

More than 250 people gathered in the 200-block Main Street on July 1 as part of the Our Home on Native Land movement, in response to the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential school sites across Western Canada.

The rally lasted for more than two hours before the group marched north to Abathasca Street.

While provincially ordered health restrictions related to event size limits, physical distancing and mask mandates were still in place at the time, no tickets were handed out.

The Express asked the City of Moose Jaw  — which issued a news release on June 29 endorsing the rally — whether city hall permitted the organizers to shut down a section of Main Street. The news outlet also asked what city hall thought of the group putting up posters and spray painting logos on public and private infrastructure and buildings, whether the city planned to remove the posters, and if the city was concerned about potential spread of COVID-19.

In an email response, city manager Jim Puffalt said, “The City of Moose Jaw appreciates the efforts of the organizers of (the July 1) Standing in Integrity – Canada Day Rally in downtown Moose Jaw. Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides the right to peaceful assembly, and the rally provided an opportunity for listening and understanding — both of which are critical steps as we work towards reconciliation.

“As for safety, many in attendance were wearing masks, and organizers issued multiple reminders to attendees to observe proper distancing. As per city policy, any posters or other signage placed on city-owned buildings or infrastructure without permission will be removed.”

In a follow-up email, city hall said it did not receive a permit request for the protest or to block off the street.

As of publication, there are still posters on city light standards and spray-painted logos on municipal infrastructure. 

The Express also asked the Moose Jaw Police Service similar questions.

In an email, police spokesman Staff Sgt. Taylor Elder said that he spoke to organizers who explained that this was an event to mourn the children who died in residential schools.

Elder said that organizers were “mindful of COVID numbers” and tracked who planned to come through Facebook event responses — 104 people committed to attending. Organizers were also “diligent” in reminding people to distance and wear masks if possible, although there were people in attendance who didn’t.

The Moose Jaw Police Service has attended similarly sized events in the past, including an anti-lockdown Freedom Rally on Jan. 16 — where more than 100 people attended —near Humpty’s Restaurant. Police issued five tickets during that gathering.

Asked if police issued pandemic-related tickets during the July 1 event, Elder replied, “There were no tickets handed out. Each situation the Moose Jaw Police Service deals with is dealt (with) separately and objectively. The organizers of the (Canada Day) event tried to comply with the health order.”

The police service was aware that this event was happening and had units in place within minutes of protestors arriving, he continued. Officers assisted with public safety and ensured traffic flowed smoothly.

As for the posters and spray-painted logos, Elder added that the event organizers planned to remove the posters, while it was not the police’s job to monitor the removal of those advertisements.