4 fined at Winnipeg Law Courts rally in support of churches fighting public health orders

Four people were fined for participating in an illegal gathering outside the Winnipeg Law Courts on Monday in support of religious groups fighting provincial public health orders.

That’s according to the latest update on Manitoba health order enforcement, released Tuesday.

Enforcement officers ticketed the individuals outside court Monday, the first day of a two-week long hearing for seven churches challenging lockdown measures in court

Roughly 150 people were in attendance at the gathering outside the court. The current provincial health regulations say no more than 10 people may gather together outside in a public place.

Officers in Manitoba handed out a total of more than $78,000 in tickets last week to people accused of violating COVID-19 public health orders, according to Tuesday’s enforcement update.

Most of the tickets — 42 of 58 — were for $1,296, given to individuals for a variety of offences, the province said in a news release on Tuesday. Thirty-three of those tickets stemmed from private indoor gatherings and nine were issued to people for failing to follow isolation requirements.

Another dozen tickets of $298 were doled out for failing to wear a mask in indoor public spaces, and four businesses were fined $5,000 each for violating rules.

Enforcement officials also issued 112 warnings.

Officials have begun ticketing people who attend anti-mask protests, including issuing 20 tickets after the fact to people who were at The Forks on April 25, where hundreds of people called for an end to mask mandates and COVID-19 public health measures.

Enforcement officers were present for protests in Winnipeg and Winkler this past weekend, the province said. Two tickets were given out on May 1 at the Winkler rally, but those tickets will be reflected in next week’s enforcement statistics, the news release says.

Investigations for all of the public gatherings continue and more charges are expected.

“The choice to defy public health orders is a serious offence and violators will be held to account,” the province said in a news release.

“Abusive and aggressive behaviour will not be tolerated, and criminal offences will be reported to police and investigated.”

Manitobans are encouraged to report non-compliance, such as recent gatherings like this at The Forks, by submitting a form on the province’s website, or by calling a provincial line. (CBC)

Over the past year, 1,294 tickets have been issued to Manitobans and business owners, totalling about $1.8 million in fines, the province says. More than 4,000 warnings have also been issued.

Tickets and warnings can be issued by about 3,300 enforcement officers, including members of the RCMP, other police services, conservation officers, municipal bylaw enforcement officers and more.

Members of the Commissionaires of Manitoba are also now informing travellers who arrive at the Winnipeg International Airport of isolation requirements. It’s been mandatory since the end of January to isolate for two weeks upon arriving in Manitoba.

Violations of public health rules can be reported on the province’s webste. Reports can also be called in at 204-945-3744 or 1-866-626-4862 (toll free).