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Lockdown Protest Organizer May See ‘Expanded Charges’

'Expanded Charges' Possible for Lockdown Protest Organizer

The local lockdown protests are persisting, and the police are watching.

“Moving forward, if they continue, we’re going to start to look at maybe expanding the charges,” shared Inspector Terry Ward, Commander of the OPP’s Dufferin Detachment. “We’ll see what the legislation does in the next little while.”

At the Orangeville Police Services Board meeting that occurred on May 18, 2021, Inspector Ward provided notice about the current status of the anti-lockdown demonstrations that have been happening in town since April 11. The reported organizer of the events, Nick Smith, has been charged multiple times under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA). Although it was published that approximately 100 people attended the first lockdown protest in Orangeville, Commander Ward states that the latest gatherings have maxed out at ten people.

“Over the last three or four weekends, we’ve had zero issues,” recognized Inspector Ward. “It’s very passive. They’re not interfering with traffic, and each time the organizer has been charged.”

The commander detailed the operations plan to prepare for the lockdown protests, including bringing in provincial liaison officers. It was explained that these officers operate in plainclothes and act as trained mediators who ‘try to negotiate with the organizer to make sure it is peaceful.’

“From our standpoint, our job is to keep the peace; we’re not going to engage, we’re not going to get into confrontations, because that’s what they want. That’s giving them a stage.” shared Ward the first time he informed the board on the lockdown protests. “The more attention we give them, the longer it’s going to draw out, the more it’s going to ramp up, and that’s not our intent.”

On a separate but related note, police services board Member and former Mayor of Orangeville, Mary Rose inquired about “the vast numbers that are turning up at the parks.”

The commander explained that since the parks are currently allowed to be open, there is not much to do beyond reminding park visitors of the importance of social distancing.

“We just have to make sure that we try to educate them to be as safe as they can,” stated Inspector Ward.

The inspector gave the police services board a run-down on the charges stemming from violations of pandemic-related health and safety orders in Orangeville.

“From April till current, just under the Emergency Management Civil Protection Act, we’ve had one charge in Orangeville,” stated Inspector Ward. “Under the Reopening Act, we’ve had four. And then under the Quarantine Act, we’ve had zero.”

The detachment commander re-affirmed how educating the public on the legislation was the preferred solution, taking ‘a heavy hand’ only in the cases where they ‘really have to’.

“Just to show that we are out there laying those charges, but we’re trying not to,” informed Inspector Ward. “We want to educate the people, and we get it. This has been dragging on, and it’s hard, especially when the weather is changing now; people want to be outside. They want to do some stuff.”

The emergency measures put in place allow for fines of $750 for failing to comply with an order and $1,000 for hindering others from following an order. The maximum financial penalty for an individual is $100,000, in addition to possible prosecution and jail time.

One can find more information on COVID-19 public health measures and advice here.

References – Lockdown Protest Organizer May See ‘Expanded Charges’

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