Top Moncton Mountie questioned on force's approach to anti-mask protests

·2 min read

The top RCMP officer in the Moncton region was again questioned about why the force isn't ticketing anti-mask demonstrators apparently defying provincial emergency measures meant to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Irwin Lampert, a retired provincial court judge who sits on the Codiac Regional Policing Authority board, questioned the RCMP's approach to anti-mask rallies that have occurred in Moncton as recently as Sunday.

"If you heard the premier and the chief medical health officer [Thursday], they were almost begging for people to co-operate and wear masks to social distance and follow the rules," Lampert said during a policing authority board meeting Thursday evening.

"And here we have a group of maybe 20 to 40 people in front of Ciy Hall making fun of the whole idea."

Under the orange recovery phase in effect provincewide, outdoor gatherings are limited to 25 people and masks are required outside when physical distancing can't be maintained.

Kate Letterick/CBC News
Kate Letterick/CBC News

He said businesses are being fined and closed for not following the rules, but RCMP officers are only watching the protests.

"I don't know why, at the very least, they're not being ticketed," Lampert said. "I don't think they should be able to stand there and make fun of the whole thing when people in the province are getting sick and dying."

Codiac Regional RCMP Supt. Tom Critchlow, the commanding officer of the detachment policing Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview, said officers observed the protest and have tried to educate protestors.

"It's a measured approach, trying to look at the bigger picture, ensuring that everybody's safety is first and foremost," Critchlow told the board that oversees Codiac RCMP.

He said ticketing isn't always the best method.

"I'm not saying that we won't. It's done on a case-by-case situation."

Public Health reported 23 new cases in New Brunswick on Thursday. There have been 12 deaths, and three patients are currently hospitalized.

Premier Blaine Higgs said at an afternoon news conference that the majority of New Brunswickers are following the rules, but "we still don't see the compliance we need to."

The premier warned that moving back to the red level "is indeed a possibility" if that doesn't change.

"That's why the enforcement is going to ramp up and we're going to become a whole lot more serious about people that are not following the rules," Higgs told CBC's Power and Politics on Thursday.

Critchlow said police need to respect protesters' rights but will ticket if necessary.

He said several of those who attended Sunday's protest have been ticketed in other circumstances for violations of the province's emergency measures order.

Critchlow wasn't able to offer more specific details Thursday evening.

RCMP in New Brunswick have previously declined to tell CBC how many tickets the force has issued in the province for COVID-19 violations.