A community centre on the southwestern tip of Nova Scotia has been fined after violating public health restrictions, even after being given a warning by police.
The RCMP say they received a complaint on Oct. 20 that the community centre on Highway 3 in Woods Harbour, N.S., was not complying with COVID-19 health restrictions.
Police learned that the centre had been routinely hosting events and failing to check for proof of vaccination or enforcing mask requirements.
"There was concern in the community that the organization's failure to properly enforce COVID-19 health restrictions could lead to the spread of COVID-19 in the community," a news release said.
Police spoke with management of the community centre the following day and instructed them on the guidelines and restrictions that were in place related to COVID-19 health restrictions.
Management was also provided documentation on what was required of the community centre to safely host events.
Organizers told restrictions did not apply
On Oct. 24, police went to a Halloween-themed craft fair being hosted at the community centre to see if health restrictions were being followed and determined they were not.
"Police observed numerous people not wearing masks and no one had been designated to check proof of vaccination as required," the release said.
"Police spoke with event organizers and learned that they had been instructed by the community centre that health restrictions did not apply to them and that they would not need to be enforced."
The RCMP say the craft fair organizers were willing to adjust their operations to abide by health protocols, and so the event was allowed to continue.
On Nov. 5, the community centre was issued a ticket for failing to abide by COVID-19 health restrictions, which carries a fine of $11,622.50.
Centre intends to appeal fine
Wayne Malone, the volunteer president of the Woods Harbour Community Centre, objects to the police's version of events.
He said the organization holding the craft fair was informed of the public health rules, and he intends to appeal the fine before the courts.
Malone said his volunteer group can't afford to hire its own security staff to check vaccinations, as it only receives about $140 per event, but it does tell event organizers of the rules and there are signs informing the public.
He said if the courts do impose the maximum fine in the summary offence, it would mean the centre would have to close its doors.
'Didn't leave us a whole lot of choice'
Cpl. Chris Marshall said the length of time between the violation and the issuing of the ticket was because police were having difficulties reaching anyone from the community centre.
"Given they didn't listen to the education piece or basically what we had to say about the restrictions themselves and what the restrictions were, it didn't leave us a whole lot of choice but to issue the fine," Marshall said.
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