Frustration, finger pointing over lack of ticketing at Alberta anti-mask rallies

CALGARY — Questions are being raised as to why fines were not handed out to hundreds of Albertans who participated in anti-mask demonstrations and contravened COVID-19-related restrictions over the weekend.

Protests took place in Edmonton, Red Deer and a pair of events unfolded outside of Calgary’s city hall on Saturday and Sunday. 

Despite the current provincial rules prohibiting outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people, several Calgary police officers watched from a distance and did not try to break up the protest.

“We will make every effort to play our part in enforcement, however our primary objective is to ask for voluntary compliance and to educate the public on the restrictions,” read a release from the Calgary Police Service.

“With that said, participants in these events are being investigated. Our ticketing is strategic and will take into consideration a number of factors.”

Calgary Police add that even though people may not witness any ticketing, it does not necessarily mean those options aren’t being actively explored. 

Alberta government promised enforcement

On Friday, Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu granted the authority for 700 peace officers to enforce new public health orders.

“Those who choose to break the rules will be subject to fine,” he said. “We need to respond quickly and decisively to situations where groups are breaking public health measures and thereby endangering the health of their community.”

Despite the provincial order, Madu’s office noted in a statement to CTV News that municipal law enforcement operates independent of the Minister of Justice.

“Elected officials do not direct specific, on-the-ground operational decisions of police officers. The provincial government respects the operational enforcement decision-making of Calgary Police Service, while balancing the Charter right to free expression and assembly.”

CEMA receives backlash over lack of ticketing 

Outgoing Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) Chief Tom Sampson fielded a flurry of questions on social media as to why tickets haven’t been handed out.

In his Twitter responses, Sampson said the timing of the order from the province contributed to Saturday’s lack of enforcement.

“In fairness we received the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) order late Friday night,” Sampson said in a tweet.

“Our folks began analyzing the order Saturday morning and completed the review late in the day. I understand your frustration, but there’s is always a lag of the detailed order comes out the day it’s in effect.”

The province’s order on Friday gave authority for 15 Level 1 Calgary bylaw officers to hand out tickets as of noon Saturday, ahead of the rally outside city hall. 

According to City of Calgary officials, there was uncertainty as to whether its 69 Level 2 bylaw officers were authorized to hand out tickets, despite the fact Madu emphasized Friday that they would be getting permission as well. 

The NDP is questioning the UCP government’s enforcement plan. Irfan Sabir, NDP justice critic, says the province was unprepared. 

“The UCP have also not allocated property enforcement resources to make sure their own restrictions are followed,” said Sabir in a statement to CTV News.

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