Revelstoke business owner Rebecca Marchildon says she has become wary of health officials, those enforcing pandemic orders and journalists who carry their messages.
Marchildon, like many frustrated business owners across B.C. during the pandemic, is feeling the financial sting of trying to stand up against what she calls unfair, blanket health orders that impact not only her business but also her community’s mental and physical well-being.
Her yoga studio, Alchemy, hosted a five-person, indoor yoga class in a 120-square-metre (1,300-square-foot) room on April 8, she says, prompting RCMP to attend.
Revelstoke RCMP said they fined the business $2,300 for non-compliance with B.C.’s current public health orders against events and $230 for failing to stop hosting the class at their direction.
“We’ve followed all the other guidelines with masks and distancing and sanitizing,” Marchildon said, adding that they have been performing low-intensity yoga to help protect participants.
She believes provincial health orders that are created by lawmakers in Victoria, the province’s capital, should come with regional discretion in the vast province of 944,732 square kilometres.
“Like Doug Clovechok (Columbia River-Revelstoke Liberal MLA) said, ‘this is like asking people in Vancouver to put chains on their tires when it snows in Revelstoke,'” Marchildon said. “Like them saying, ‘Just go outside to the restaurants and the studios’ when it’s snowing here. It’s not the same as if we’re on the coast and that’s an option.”
Revelstoke RCMP said disrespecting the health orders is not an option, when describing why the owner of Alchemy was fined.
“While we certainly can and will enforce the provisions available to us under the Emergency Program Act, we continue to encourage everyone to voluntarily comply with the provincial health orders, so enforcement actions are not required,” Sgt. Chris Dodds said.
While Alchemy’s owner found both local public health officials and RCMP empathetic to her arguments, they told her they there were bound to enforce provincial government orders.
“It was clear that none of them agreed with what is happening. I told them, ‘If people don’t stand up who disagree, then this will go on for however long,'” Marchildon told Global News.
Even speaking publicly about the incident had the Revelstoke business owner concerned over the impact of not only her actions, but also her words.
“I don’t want my words to be skewed in this article,” was Marchildon’s fear in speaking to Global News, believing articles have been leaning toward pro-lockdown.
She says she has few financial resources at her disposal to not only pay the fines but also to continue staying open while being compliant with health orders that are set to be in place across B.C. until at least April 16.
Marchildon’s business was opened five months prior to the pandemic, making her ineligible for grants or any other financial assistance, she says.
She’d like to see businesses like hers that provide mental and physical well-being being supported as a priority during the pandemic.
“I can’t believe I live in a world where I can go to the liquor store and pot store and buy everything I want but the police are going to waste their time coming to shut down a yoga studio. It’s absolutely insane.”
That’s the feeling of the members of the community who have rallied around her, as well.
“For a small business that is already in the red this would be the nail in the coffin,” said Christiane Duclos, a Revelstoke woman who has set up an online fundraiser for Marchildon following the fine incident.
“We need to remember that this gross overreach of power could be directed at any single one of us,” said Duclos. “All the government has to do is wave their magic ‘safety wand’ in our direction and any one of our businesses, jobs or livelihoods could be in peril.”
In further support of Alchemy, a dozen volunteers came out over the weekend and built an outdoor deck so Marchildon can host outdoor classes and avoid further fines.
“The love and support has been incredible,” she says. “I’ve received phone calls from all over B.C. in support of us.”
RCMP said in enforcing the order, they are only trying to keep people safe from the COVID-19 virus.
“Public safety is a priority for the RCMP and we urge citizens to adhere to the orders being implemented to keep everyone safe and reduce the risk of virus transmission.”
For Marchildon, it’s a matter of standing up for her beliefs and setting an example for her three young daughters.
“I know a lot of people think, ‘Just follow orders and do what you’re told.’ But in this case, where the government has no transparency, is not giving us any data or any reason… If there had been an outbreak or anything traced to us, a thousand per cent I would shut down and do everything I had to do. But the fact there is zero evidence and zero link to our studio is what really upsets and troubles me.”
Despite the temperature being only 5 C, outdoor classes at the Revelstoke yoga studio will continue to help her stay in business, for now.