Maxime Bernier Guilty of Violating COVID-19 Public Health Order in Regina

A date has been set for later in May for the sentencing of Bernier and others convicted of offenses committed in 2021.

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People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier is among those found guilty this week of violating COVID-19 pandemic-era public health orders in Regina.

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In a pair of trial decisions released Thursday, Regina Provincial Court Judge Murray Hinds sentenced a total of nine people, all of whom were charged with failing to comply with a public health order while attending a gathering of more than 10 people, contrary to the Public Health Act. Three people were acquitted.

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The trials related to alleged offenses at rallies on May 8, 2021 and May 15, 2021. On May 8, Bernier addressed a crowd in Regina’s Victoria Park at an event billed as a “rally of the freedom”. The right-wing Quebec politician donned a Saskatchewan Roughriders jersey for his appearance in the park and was greeted by cheers from a crowd estimated by the Leader-Post at around 200.

Bernier’s attendance at the Saskatchewan rallies was frowned upon by provincial politicians of both mainstreams, with then-Health Minister Paul Merriman calling her “very self-serving” and “extremely disappointing.” NDP MP Nicole Sarauer said such rallies were “the last thing we need” and felt that Bernier “and his rhetoric are not welcome here.

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Bernier called tickets for violating public health orders “unlawful” and “unfair”, adding “we will fight this all the way to the Supreme Court and we will win”.

In Saskatchewan, early attempts at arguments to this effect met with little success.

In relation to the aforementioned lawsuits, arguments were made that the assembly limit violated the freedoms of peaceful assembly and liberty rights protected by the Constitution. In addition, arguments were made that the public health order was vague and overbroad.

The judge found that the Charter and vagueness issues had already been decided.

In his decision on these issues, delivered before the trial verdicts, Hinds wrote that it “is manifest that the applicants are not satisfied with the Court’s decisions in these cases. They may wish to appeal these decisions to a higher court. However, they cannot raise questions a second time in this court.

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As to whether the public health order was too broad, Hinds found that it was not. With that, the judge was left with the trial evidence, which led to convictions against most of the accused.

Among those convicted alongside Bernier were former political candidate and activist Mark Friesen, as well as Nathan Lynchuk, who was once a Saskatoon police officer. The charges against the three were related to the rally on May 8, 2021.

Friesen has previously been convicted multiple times for public health order violations related to his attendance at rallies in the province.

Regina-area activist Tamara Lavoie faced charges in relation to both dates, but did not attend a trial and had default judgments rendered against her, resulting in the imposition of two fines of $2,800. Lavoie’s absenteeism in other public health procedures has led to the same result.

A date later in May has been set aside for the sentencing of those convicted in Thursday’s decisions.

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— with files by Lynn Giesbrecht


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    Maxime Bernier Guilty of Violating COVID-19 Public Health Order in Regina

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