A Calgary father says he was slapped with a huge ticket for violating COVID-19 physical-distancing requirements while his children and some friends brushed up on their soccer skills, despite going out of his way to comply with the provincial rules.
Cenek Patik says it started May 9 when he, four other parents and five children including one of his, were working on soccer skills development at the Deerfoot Athletic Park.
Patik was using a net to keep two players separated. The father of three also used traffic cones to mark boxes on the field, about 10 metres apart, for players to pass the ball back and forth.
He says at all times physical distancing was being carefully observed.
Leave the park or get a ticket
But not everyone agreed.
"The police officer shows up and says 'soccer is cancelled,' We were not allowed to be playing soccer and we need to leave the park," Patik told CBC News.
"We tried to talk to him. We said we were not playing soccer. We were social distancing. He said leave the park or get a ticket."
Patik said something didn't feel right about the interaction. He had followed the province's updates on what is acceptable and what is not.
So he filed an informal complaint with police and asked Alberta Health Services for an opinion.
Within your rights: AHS
Patik shared with CBC News an email from Daria Romanish of AHS stating it appears the families followed the rules.
"You and your family are within your rights to be in a park with another family, and the kids are able to be kicking a soccer ball around," Romanish wrote in that email dated May 12.
"This is not prohibited providing there are not more than 15 of you, the equipment you are using belongs to you, and that people within your party are practising physical distancing."
Romanish had not replied to a request by CBC News to confirm the email by late Thursday.
'I am giving you a ticket'
Patik says feeling somewhat vindicated, he ventured out the following Saturday, May 16, with a total of five children and three adults.
As the group was leaving, Patik says the officer from the week before appeared.
"The session was done. We were already walking back to our cars," Patik said.
"He said, 'Come with me, I am giving you a ticket.' He said we were not social distancing."
That ticket was for $1,200.
Another parent, Cam Barrett, witnessed the ticketing and confirmed Patik's description of the interaction, adding the children were physical distancing 100 per cent of the time.
"Oh, for sure," Barrett said.
The head of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency says he is aware of the incident and clarified Thursday what is allowed.
"The game of soccer is actually banned," Tom Sampson said.
"You can do the skills training around soccer, you can run some of the skills camps around soccer but the actual game of soccer is not permitted at this time."
And that distinction is perhaps what caused the confusion leading to the ticket, Patik said.
"I think there is a gap between what a team-run practice session by coaches of a club is, versus five kids and parents getting together to kick a ball around."
No comment from police
The whole situation has left Patik feeling a little offside, when he says others in the park that day were not penalized.
"I am a dad in a park with kids and their parents," he said.
"Why was I the only one given a ticket? This guy is not asking the right questions. He is not understanding the bylaw."
Patik intends to appeal the ticket.
A Calgary police spokesperson told CBC News the complaint was being reviewed and as a result, they would not comment on the matter.
Should be supported, applauded
Meanwhile, parent Barrett, who has known Patik for about five years, said the whole incident is unfortunate because Patik had gone above and beyond to find a way for the children to safely work on soccer skills and get some fresh air.
"In my opinion, we need to take the right precautions and that was done in this instance," he said.
"That should really be supported and applauded to bridge physical health and mental health and getting kids out and active."