Amherst mayor defends police after COVID-19 enforcement criticized

·3 min read
David Kogon, the mayor of Amherst, N.S., is sticking up for his town's police force after the premier criticized its COVID-19 rule enforcement. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC - image credit)
David Kogon, the mayor of Amherst, N.S., is sticking up for his town's police force after the premier criticized its COVID-19 rule enforcement. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC - image credit)

The mayor of Amherst, N.S., is defending his town's police force after Premier Tim Houston criticized it for not doing enough to enforce COVID-19 rules.

Houston made the comments during a press briefing Wednesday where he discussed a multi-day religious gathering held late last month that's since been linked to a spike in COVID-19 cases and three deaths in Nova Scotia.

The pastor of the church in Amherst was fined $2,422 by the province, but not police. Houston said law enforcement "should do their job."

"I was very upset because it's much more important to do it right than to do it quickly," Amherst Mayor David Kogon said in response to Houston's remarks.

"He's entitled to his opinion thinking things should have been done more quickly, but I think being thorough, being careful, and really delving into the situation and thoroughly investigating — it warrants some time."

Police consulting with Crown, says mayor

Kogon said the town's police force has been "very appropriate" when it comes to enforcing COVID-19 rules. He said they've sought insight from the Crown attorney's office on how to proceed with possible criminal charges related to the multi-day faith gathering.

"When people die as a result of somebody breaking rules, that to me sounds like it could be much more serious than simply a couple of thousand dollars and a fine," Kogon said.

The province announced Thursday it will be increasing fines for those who break COVID-19 rules.

First offences for people who organize or go to illegal gatherings will be fined $2,422. The fine will be $11,622 for each time after the first offence.

The first fine for organizations is $11,622 and $57,622 for subsequent violations.

Following up with enforcement

Nova Scotia Justice Minister Brad Johns said his department has followed up with all provincial police departments "to ensure that everybody knows that they're responsible to investigate and levy fines."

Johns said he wasn't sure why the Amherst police department didn't issue fines and never contacted them to ask for an explanation.

"I have more issues in regards to the event that happened and more opinions around that than I do the response of policing," Johns said.

"I think what we saw from the premier is a desire to really show the ... significance of people following the regulations and the rules."

Criminal negligence 'hard to prove'

Wayne Mackay, a professor emeritus at Dalhousie University's Schulich School of Law, said the only criminal charge he could see potentially applying to the multi-day faith gathering is criminal negligence.

"Under criminal negligence, if you have a duty to do something and you either don't do it or do it inadequately or do it with wanton and reckless disregard for the safety of others, then that can be considered criminal negligence," MacKay told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Thursday.

MacKay said the charge is both serious and "extremely hard to prove." It comes with prison time and a criminal record upon conviction.

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