Sask. tickets for COVID-19 infractions top 100, just five fines paid

Sask. tickets for COVID-19 infractions top 100, just five fines paid

Saskatoon police have yet to lay charges in March 20 protest that attracted hundreds to downtown park.

Author of the article:

Phil Tank  •  Saskatoon StarPhoenix

People gathered at Vimy Memorial to protest mandatory mask laws and the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo taken in Saskatoon, SK on Saturday, March 20, 2021.
People gathered at Vimy Memorial to protest mandatory mask laws and the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo taken in Saskatoon, SK on Saturday, March 20, 2021. Photo by Matt Smith /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Enforcement of restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 ramped up through the first three months of 2021 in Saskatchewan.

Ministry of Justice spokeswoman Margherita Vittorelli said in an email that 106 charges have been laid for violating public health orders dating back to mid-March of 2020.

Eleven of these ended with convictions and five fines have been paid, worth $12,000 altogether. Twelve charges were withdrawn or jurisdiction was lost; the other 83 are awaiting a date in court.

Jurisdiction is ‘lost’ when specific circumstances outside of the accused’s control mean that a case cannot proceed as scheduled,” Vittorelli ‘s email said. “Most times when a case cannot proceed, jurisdiction is not lost.”

Most of these tickets, 78, were issued from the start of January 2021 to the end of March. Convictions have more than doubled from five at the end of 2020.

The $12,000 in total fines collected suggests the province has yet to collect on a single $14,000 ticket issued to a business.

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In January, the province began naming businesses charged with violating public health restrictions and fining them $14,000 each. So far, seven businesses have been named and fined this year, most recently the Milden Hotel and Bar last week.

The owners of several of the businesses that have been named and issued tickets have suggested they intend to challenge the tickets in court.

Meanwhile, Saskatoon police have yet to lay any charges in relation to a March 20 protest against pandemic restrictions in Kiwanis Memorial Park that police estimated attracted 300 to 400 people.

Saskatoon Police Service spokeswoman Kelsie Fraser said in an email on Tuesday that charges are still being considered and could be laid by the end of the week.

The current public health rules, which were in place on March 20, limit outdoor gatherings to 10 people and require social distancing.

The people attending the March 20 protest were mostly unmasked, and many crowded close to the bandshell where speakers were blasting public health measures and criticizing limits on freedom.

Saskatoon police issued a warning to avoid the area on the Saturday the rally took place because the size of the crowd was unknown.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has filed a constitutional challenge on behalf of two people who were ticketed for taking part in a rally in Saskatoon on Dec. 19.

Each was issued a $2,800 fine for attending a gathering of more than 10 people.

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The centre issued a statement that said restricting gatherings to 10 people violates Charter rights that guarantee freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression.

The centre is a Calgary-based legal advocacy group.

ptank@postmedia.com

twitter.com/thinktankSK

More On This Topic

  1. People gathered at Vimy Memorial to protest mandatory mask laws and the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo taken in Saskatoon, SK on Saturday, March 20, 2021.

    Saskatoon police estimate hundreds attended weekend COVID-19 protest

  2. Bryan Baraniski, the owner of the Shorebird Inn in Tobin Lake, is shown in his bed on oxygen at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. Baraniski has been in hospital with COVID-19 since March 7, but still opposes the restrictions designed to limit the spread of the pandemic. He says he may challenge a $14,000 fine for failing to comply with the public health order. (Photo: Bryan Baraniski)

    Hospitalized inn owner says he may challenge $14,000 COVID-19 ticket

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