A Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice has issued a temporary injunction to stop two weekend anti-mask rallies planned for the Halifax area.
In a decision released Friday, Justice Scott Norton said anticipated harm would be imminent because of the potential spread of COVID-19 at the scheduled rallies.
Norton said there is a greater public interest in maintaining the integrity of current public health restrictions than permitting the rallies to go ahead as planned.
A group called “Freedom Nova Scotia” was scheduled to hold a rally at Citadel Hill, in Halifax, at 1 p.m. Saturday, while a “Worldwide Freedom Rally” was to take place later that day on a baseball field in Barrington, N.S., at 6 p.m.
Norton said the groups are “uninformed or wilfully blind to the scientific and medical evidence” used to support the public health restrictions.
“Their plan to gather in-person in large numbers, without social distancing and without masks, in contravention of the public health recommendations and orders shows a callous and shameful disregard for the health and safety of their fellow citizens,” the judge said.
Norton noted the province’s hospitals are filling with COVID-19 patients, adding that health-care workers have been “working tirelessly” for 14 months to manage the health crisis. He said schools and many businesses have had to close, leaving people out of work.
“Yet, Nova Scotia has done better than many other provinces because its public health officials have taken an aggressive approach based on science, medicine and common sense,” Norton said. “It is appropriate to include notice that law enforcement officers will arrest and charge anyone in breach of the prohibitions.”
Rankin ‘pleased’ by decision
Premier Iain Rankin addressed the decision during a COVID-19 briefing on Friday, saying he was happy the injunction was put in place.
“There’s no question these people don’t believe in science, they don’t believe in masks, vaccines,” said Rankin. “This is nothing more than an alt-right group that wants to protest things like science, and we’re pleased at the decision.”
Dr. Strang also approved of the judge’s decision.
“We’re in a very serious situation. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic,” he said. “We cannot let a small group of individuals who willfully dismiss the science, willfully dismiss the evidence around how their actions could put other people at significant risk.”
Meanwhile, health officials announced that COVID-19 vaccine appointments had opened Friday for people aged 35 and older. The 35-to-39 age group, which comprises about 63,500 people in the province, is now eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines at clinics across the province.
– With files from Alex Cooke