People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier says he violated Manitoba's quarantine requirements for people not vaccinated against COVID-19 because he believes the rule is unconstitutional.
Bernier, who said he decided not to get the COVID-19 vaccine, returned to Manitoba on Monday for the first time since he was arrested by RCMP in June at a rally against public health orders in St-Pierre-Jolys.
"These orders are unconstitutional and immoral, and I will always fight for my freedom, the freedom of all Canadians," Bernier said in an interview with CBC News.
Current public health orders state anyone entering Manitoba must self-isolate for 14 days, although people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and some essential workers are exempt.
On Monday, Bernier attended a rally in Steinbach, Man., followed by events on a private farm near Schanzenfeld and in Winnipeg. About 1,000 people turned up to the last rally at The Forks in Winnipeg.
In June, Bernier was charged under the Public Health Act for assembling in a gathering at an outdoor public place and for failing to self-isolate once he got to Manitoba.
When asked about why he did not self-isolate this time, Bernier said he was "taking a chance."
"But if I have to go back to jail to defend our freedoms and the freedoms of all Canadians, I'll do that."
His next court date is set for Sept. 21 in St-Pierre-Jolys.
Bernier and his party have made opposition to mandatory vaccination and mask-wearing central to their platform in the 2021 election.
Terry Romand was one of a few hundred people who attended the Steinbach rally. He heard that message loud and clear from Bernier.
Romand said he thought the People's Party of Canada leader talked about what most people are thinking with regard to COVID-19 vaccines.
"You don't really want to lose freedoms. You want to be safe around the situation. You want to do the right thing," said Romand.
He also said Bernier had some practical things to say, and that he'd take what he heard as "food for thought" before casting his ballot in this election.
"Most of what he said was really non-obtrusive, like it doesn't hurt you. Walking around with a passport doesn't really keep you safe from anything. All it is is compliance with rules and regulations," Romand said. "It doesn't save anybody. It doesn't make you any less vulnerable to a bug."
"The passport thing is almost like … discrimination."
The event near Schanzenfeld, which is located in the Rural Municipality of Stanley, had an estimated turnout between 1,000 and 2,000 people.
Once again, Bernier spoke about freedom.
"Freedom. Freedom matters in this country. It's a part of our Constitution, our Charter of Rights and Freedoms," he said.
"Choosing, free choice is also in there. Those are two examples of things that have been taken away from us, and though they are in our Constitution, they are not playing out because of the health order."
Bernier also told those in attendance that a People's Party of Canada government would result in a "tough time for the next four years" because of a focus on balancing the budget.
But that only happens, he said, if voters go against their voting loyalties.
"If you vote loyalty, you'll do what you have always done but won't get different results. We are trying to tell people, this election you must vote your heart and conscience," Bernier said.
His Manitoba tour continues Tuesday with scheduled stops in Dauphin, Brandon and Portage la Prairie.