The Regina Police Service (RPS) issued two $2,800 tickets following a rally held in Regina Saturday afternoon.
Police say a man and woman, from Saskatoon and Deer Valley respectively, received the tickets.
Referring to the event as a “Freedom Rally” by organizers, hundreds converged outside of the legislative building to criticize COVID-19 restrictions and the government’s response to the pandemic.
Attendees brandished signs while several speakers stood atop a podium, some complaining about restrictions and some going as far as to call the entire pandemic a “lie” and “fake news”.
The rally occurred despite ongoing public health orders state outdoor and private gatherings of more than 30 people are prohibited.
It also followed a Saturday afternoon announcement that the previous 24 hours contained the highest number of daily deaths related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
Organizers told Global News the rally’s purpose was twofold.
One, to promote the view that public health order restrictions are unconstitutional.
And two, to express concern for small business and the economy and to start a debate with policy makers around the necessity of those restrictions.
“Of course it’s sad when someone dies from the flu or pneumonia or whatever it is. It’s sad any time somebody dies,” organizer Mark Friesen said when asked what he thought of the newly announced deaths. “But, from a societal perspective the numbers are within expected numbers every year.”
When asked if rallies would continue Friesen suggested it would depend on government response.
“If they open up the debate, and if they tell us they’re going to respect the constitution then we all go away.”
But if organizers and attendees are hoping to open a debate with the province’s top politician, it appears they may struggle to get a response.
“I hope those attending would consider how insignificant the inconveniences they are being asked to follow really are compared to the pain of losing a loved one,” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said on social media Saturday afternoon.
As for the constitutionality of public health measures, a report published by the Centre for Constitutional Studies suggested “the government could probably convince a court that the measures are reasonable for the circumstances.”
In the legislature Thursday reporters asked several provincial cabinet ministers for their thoughts on the impending rally.
Health Minister Paul Merriman said “people have the right to protest and express themselves” but asked that “they adhere to the public health guidelines not just when out expressing opinions but in all aspects of their daily life.”
Justice Minister and Attorney General Gordon Wyant, meanwhile, said it was time for people to start listening to the professionals.
“The time for education is over,” Wyant said.
“We need to be very aggressive in terms of ensuring that there is compliance with public health orders.”
Prior to the rally, police said in a release that they would determine appropriate action as they see fit.
They added they had been made aware of rally plans, and provided an escort as protesters marched down Albert Street following the speeches.