Charges are mounting for people flaunting public health rules in Chatham-Kent.
There have now been five people charged following the anti-lockdown rally at Tecumseh Park April 26. And in Dresden one person has been charged following a May 2 service with more than 70 people at the Old Colony Mennonite Church.
“If there are repeated decisions for people to disregard the closure orders then there’s an escalation of penalties that could be involved,” says CAO Don Shropshire. “To be frank it could be up to and including jail time.”
A sign on the door of the Dresden church May 7 asked members not to exceed 15 per cent capacity and requested that attendance remain at 50 people. The note says the church has a capacity of 288 people, which would make 15 per cent 44 people total.
The Dresden church has not yet approached the repeat offender status of its Wheatley counterpart. The Old Colony Mennonite Church there has received several visits from authorities over recent months, including May 2 after yet another large gathering. Three people have been charged so far from all incidents.
“There have been charges laid recently with the Old Colony Mennonite Church because they refuse to abide by the restrictions,” says Shropshire. “It’s a matter of trying to keep people safe and I think that’s where we have to keep focusing.”
Shropshire says even more severe options could be on the table if the behaviour persists, including padlocking or fencing off the churches. Alberta health officers and RCMP took this route last month with the GraceLife Church outside of Edmonton after repeated violations of public health measures.
Chatham-Kent Police didn’t release the names of the five people now charged in the Tecumseh Park Rally, or say whether MP Derek Sloan or MPP Randy Hillier were among them. Meanwhile, no charges were laid following the much discussed “Opening Day” April 30 where businesses had been encouraged to open in defiance of the lockdown.
The organizer, a local realtor, said he wouldn’t be participating prior to the event. Police said they made a number of inspections on the planned day but didn’t find any businesses violating the rules.
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent