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COVID-19: RCMP arrest operators of Alberta gas station in connection with public health orders, threats

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WATCH ABOVE: (From Jan. 25, 2021) Two rural Alberta businesses are refusing to follow public health restrictions meant to stop the spread of COVID-19. As Lisa MacGregor explains, both businesses have received warnings and visits from authorities – Jan 25, 2021

Three people involved in a family business southeast of Edmonton have been arrested in connection with allegedly breaking public health orders related to COVID-19, and RCMP say two of those arrested have also been criminally charged.

In a news release issued Tuesday, the RCMP said the arrests stem from an investigation into allegations of non-compliance with public health orders at the Countryside Service gas station and convenience store in Lindbrook, Alta.

A January 2021 file photo of the Countryside Service gas station and convenience store in Lindbrook, Alta. Global News

Police said Tofield RCMP and Alberta Health Services first received complaints about the business in December. After receiving those complaints — until April — police said RCMP officers, along with AHS personnel and Alberta Occupational Health and Safety “attempted to educate and assist the owner to correct the deficiencies within the store for public and employee safety.”

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However, on March 4, Logan and Phillip Wilson were charged with various offences under the Alberta Public Health Act, and on March 15, Hemla Wilson was charged with various health act offences.

According to the RCMP, all three were released on a promise to appear in court in Vegreville on May 3 but none of them showed up that day.

“As a result of statements made in regards to the RCMP, Alberta Health Services and Occupational Health and Safety, on May 19, 2021, Hemla Wilson was charged with uttering threats,” police said Tuesday. “Tofield RCMP were unable to locate Hemla Wilson and a warrant for her arrest was obtained.

“On June 7, 2021, the RCMP had located Hemla Wilson while she was operating a motor vehicle and attempted a traffic stop, however, she failed to stop for police.”

READ MORE: Rural Alberta businesses open for in-person dining, not following mask rules despite restrictions 

The RCMP said on June 9, Tofield RCMP and the Alberta RCMP crime reduction unit put together a plan to arrest Hemla, Phillip and Logan Wilson on outstanding warrants. Later that day, Mounties found Logan Wilson driving a vehicle in which Hemla Wilson was a passenger. Police said officers tried to pull them over but “the vehicle failed to stop for police and continued to a nearby residence where police conducted the vehicle stop.”

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According to police, both Wilsons that were in the vehicle were then arrested. The RCMP said a police officer suffered minor injuries during the arrest. Hemla Devi Wilson, 54, and Logan Wilson, 31, both of Strathcona County, were charged with assaulting a police officer, fleeing from police and mischief over $5,000 in connection with the events that unfolded on June 9. Police declined to provide details about how the officer was injured or what led to the assault charges, citing the fact that the matter is now before the courts.

Hemla Wilson has also been charged with fleeing from police in connection with the attempted traffic stop on June 7, and also uttering threats in connection with an incident on April 26. Both she and Logan Wilson are also facing Alberta Public Health Act charges.

A January 2021 file photo of Hemla Wilson taken at the Countryside Service gas station and convenience store in Lindbrook, Alta. Global News

Phillip Wilson, 25, was arrested at another location later on June 9. He faces Alberta Public Health Act charges.

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All three have been released from custody but must abide by conditions, police said. They are scheduled to appear in court in Vegreville on June 28 and in Sherwood Park on June 30.

READ MORE: 4 people ticketed after hundreds attend anti-lockdown rally at Whistle Stop Café: Alberta RCMP 

In January, Global News interviewed Hemla Wilson at her store. At that time, she said she had already been fined for not following COVID-19 rules but had no intention of paying it.

“I refuse to pay it because this is under a policy, and I have no contract with Alberta Health Services or the government,” she said. “I figured under common law that it should be up to the people (whether to follow COVID-19 rules). It’s God’s law. It’s law of the land. Their policy is unlawful.”

Wilson said her gas station and convenience store was allowing people inside without masks if they chose not to wear one because “it’s their God-given right for them to do what they would like.”

She also told Global News she had given authorities “notice warnings” but would not elaborate on what the warnings entailed.

“Throughout this process, Tofield RCMP’s response to the Countryside Service store’s non-compliance has been consistent with our overall RCMP strategy in the province which is education, an opportunity for compliance and lastly, enforcement,” police said Tuesday. “Tofield RCMP, along with Alberta Health Services and Occupational Health and Safety, have worked together in our approach of escalated levels of enforcement in the face of non-compliance with COVID(-19) public health orders.

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“These steps speak to the ongoing patience, resilience and structured actions and response that have been taken by the Tofield RCMP in an effort to gain compliance and support from a business owner(s)/operator(s) for the Alberta Public Health Act regulations.”

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