Sask. health authority has issued $45K in COVID-19 fines since start of pandemic

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The Saskatchewan Health Authority has issued eight fines totalling $44,800, including victim surcharges, to people or corporations that have broken COVID-19 public health guidelines since the pandemic started in March.

The number of people alone fined is unclear but two corporations are among those hit with charges, according to data shared Monday with CBC News by Saskatchewan's Ministry of Health.

Of the total, $32,000 consisted of actual fines while the rest was made up victim impact surcharges.

Those fined vary from a Saskatoon homeowner who hosted a private gathering with 47 people when the limit for private meetings was 30 (it's now five), to the pastor of a gospel outreach centre in Prince Albert where singers went unmasked. The gospel centre was cited as a multi-jurisdictional superspreader.

Two corporations were also financially disciplined.

The data is reflective of the province's approach so far to policing breaches of self-isolation or gathering limit orders, which was to first educate people about the need to follow guidelines instead of going directly to a fine.

That era may be coming to an end, however.

On Friday, Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, said "the time for education is now mostly over," adding that "it is important to report noncompliance."

The numbers reported by the ministry are different from those of the RCMP, which issues its own charges under the province's Public Health Act.

Between March 1 and Oct. 31, RCMP members in Saskatchewan received a total of 2,912 COVID-related calls for service — an average of 364 calls a month.

The vast majority of the calls were resolved "by educating members of the public of the potential health and enforcement consequences that can result from non-compliance with the public health order," an RCMP spokesperson said Friday.

However, 42 charges for summary violations were issued under the province's Public Health Act, including for people who held large gatherings or did not self-isolate.