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Niagara to ‘discuss’ concerns over West Lincoln mayor’s ties to St. Catharines anti-lockdown rally

Don Mitchell / Global News

The mayor of West Lincoln, Ont. is expected to be the target of discussions among Niagara Regional councillors in the coming days after a number of summonses were issued to in connection with an anti-COVID-19 lockdown protest on Lake Street in St. Catharines on April 10.

In a statement on Friday, Niagara Regional chair Jim Bradley “assured” residents that he has heard public concerns and is taking the issues surrounding mayor and regional councillor Dave Bylsma “seriously.”

“To that end, we will be discussing this matter as council in the coming days,” said Bradley.

Read more: West Lincoln mayor removed from emergency ops post amid investigation into COVID-19 protest

The region confirmed to Global News that Bylsma was one of several that were summoned to appear for failing to comply with orders under the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA), which carries penalties of up to $100,000 and imprisonment up to a year.

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The weekend demonstration is under investigation by St. Catharines bylaw officers and Niagara Regional Police after both services attended the gathering, which they say drew large crowds.

Police confirmed four people from the Niagara-area are facing charges in connection with the gathering, but did not disclose their identities.

A portion of the protest took place out front of a St. Catharines barbershop whose owner told Global News she’s been struggling to keep her business going amid multiple shutdowns by the province in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bylsma lost his seat on West Lincoln’s emergency operations centre after council removed him from the position on Monday night.

Councillor William Reilly who chaired that meeting characterized Bylsma’s actions as “not a fine moment” for the community and said the departure was a “conflict of interest matter.”

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“With the Mayor’s recent actions demonstrated this past weekend, which was the opposite of the EOC’s directive, it was clear to me and to a majority of other members on council that it was no longer appropriate for him to remain in this role and position,” Reilly told Global News in an email.

In his statement on Friday, Bradley urged residents planning to attend future demonstrations to “seriously reconsider. ”

“Even if these residents struggle to accept the legitimate health and safety risks associated with large gatherings, I suggest they consider the potential personal repercussions of significant fines and jail time,’ Bradley said.

Global News has reached out to Mayor Dave Bylsma for reaction to the summons and his removal from West Lincoln’s EOC team. The mayor has not responded to any queries as of Friday afternoon.

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