The warning was issued, patently ignored, and now four participants in the Freedom Rally that took place in Moose Jaw on Saturday afternoon find themselves facing fines for their actions.
The rally -- which took place at Thatcher Drive and Main Street and featured over 100 people, almost all of whom refused to wear masks, took place over three hours in the afternoon and was monitored by Moose Jaw Police Service throughout.
The evening before, the MJPS had sent out a press release saying they would be keeping a close eye on the event and watching for violations of the ongoing Public Health Order to protect citizens from the COVID-19 pandemic. Under that order, gatherings are limited to groups of 10 people outdoors.
Participants carried multiple signs decrying the use of masks, and organizer Mark Friesen even opened his speech at the event saying police had told him no fines would be issued, and he had been told people could gather in pods of 10. That drew a laugh from the crowd, and Friesen went on to say that such an order wasn’t part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and as such, the crowd could do with it what they wanted.
The crowd remained in their large, milling-about gathering throughout, and even gathered enmasse for a group photo at one point.
No information has been given as to who was fined or what amount the fines were, although fines of $2,800 have been levied for other violations -- with one speaker at the rally bragging that she was a member of the 2800 club, having received such a fine in the past.
The Saskatchewan government recently introduced legislation to increase COVID-19 public health order violation fines to $7,500 to individuals.