People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has left Manitoba — for now.
Bernier left on a flight back to Montreal at 9:45 a.m. on Saturday, the federal political party said in a news release.
The update comes after Bernier’s weekend tour of anti-lockdown rallies in the southern part of the province was cut short Friday afternoon, when he was arrested by RCMP for breaching provincial public health orders intended to curb the spread of COVID-19.
He was charged under the Public Health Act for assembling in a gathering at an outdoor public place and for failing to self-isolate once he got to Manitoba, RCMP spokesperson Tara Seel said Friday.
The arrest came after his second stop of the day, in the village of St-Pierre-Jolys, about 50 kilometres south of Winnipeg. He was also ticketed earlier that day at his first stop, in the nearby town of Niverville. He told a Radio-Canada reporter on Friday he planned to fight that ticket.
Bernier was released Friday evening on the condition he follow public health orders while in Manitoba, RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Paul Manaigre said in a statement.
The penalties section of Manitoba’s Public Health Act states the maximum sanction is a $100,000 fine, one year in jail or both.
Bernier spent roughly eight hours in police custody in the RCMP detachment in St-Pierre-Jolys before paying a cash bail of $1,000 upon his release, the People’s Party said.
He’s set to appear in Winnipeg court on July 27.
A failure to agree to his bail conditions or any reoffence in Manitoba after his release could have seen Bernier jailed until that date, the party said. The release said he plans to continue to oppose pandemic restrictions, but did not indicate whether he still plans to fight the Manitoba charge.
Bernier knew he risked arrest during his tour of Manitoba but said he was still shocked to be “treat[ed] like a criminal,” according to the news release.
The tour was set to include stops in the cities of Morden and Winkler later Friday, despite pandemic restrictions banning large events and requiring people to self-isolate when entering the province if they’re not fully vaccinated.
Bernier was also expected to visit the communities of La Salle and Lorette, as well as Winnipeg, on Saturday, then the cities of Steinbach and Selkirk on Sunday, according to an itinerary posted on Facebook.
The Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said in a news release that it would appear in court on Bernier’s behalf.
The organization has been involved in challenges of lockdown measures across the country, including one in Manitoba that saw seven churches take the province to court over its pandemic powers.
No decision has been issued yet in that challenge.