Most Canadians have had the decency and good sense to abide by public-health guidelines and ancillary laws designed to protect them from contracting COVID-19.
It hasn’t been easy. But what has been particularly infuriating is the manner in which many of these laws have been “enforced.” (We use the term loosely.) The penalties associated with many of these edicts are grossly insufficient, when they’re imposed at all.
And then there are fines attached to some orders that seem completely out of whack with the crime.
A few examples.
In a Vancouver courtroom last week, a provincial court judge sentenced a man who had been organizing large private parties in his sprawling downtown condo (replete with stripper poles and a DJ) in defiance of public-health orders to one day in jail, 18 months of probation, a $5,000 fine and 50 hours of community service.
Justice Ellen Gordon said that what Mohammad Movassaghi did in organizing these gatherings was “a crime, not a party,” and compared it to selling fentanyl on the street. She said if someone who was infected was at his party passed it on to others, including elderly grandparents, the result could be deadly. Someone may have died as a consequence of his party, which would make him guilty of manslaughter, she said.
This was a jurist after my own heart, I thought, someone who puts the seriousness of this disease in perspective. Then why only one day in jail? The judge said she would have imposed a “period of incarceration” much longer if the Crown had asked for it. It didn’t. That is as maddening as it is bewildering.
Now, let’s travel eastward where a Tillsonburg, Ont., golf-course operator is facing a potential $10-million fine – yes, you read that right – for opening in defiance of provincial pandemic restrictions.
This is a completely absurd.
I don’t condone what the golf-course operator did, but I share his frustration. Golf courses have proven to be one of the safest places you can be during the pandemic. Other than a couple of months at the beginning of the pandemic a year ago, golf courses in British Columbia have been open for business and have operated safely, amid a range of protocols that prevent unnecessary contact and keep people at a safe distance. Courses have been accommodating record numbers of players.
The golf-course closures in Ontario are part of a broader crackdown on outdoor recreational activities that is nonsensical. Tennis and basketball courts, golf courses and skateboard parks aren’t the types of settings that are going to easily drive infection. They have all been open in B.C. with no ill effect.
What Ontario is doing is completely unfair to a populace that is tired and frustrated and needs these types of refuges. To deny them that is just mean. To potentially fine someone $10-million for wanting to give people that opportunity is a farce.
Finally, we head back west, this time to Alberta, where infection rates are among the highest in the world. Premier Jason Kenney has imposed many restrictions on gatherings but hasn’t gone far enough for many. You would think any open defiance of public-health laws at this time would be met with stern consequences.
Open defiance like, say, a rodeo organized to protest COVID-19 restrictions that drew thousands of people to the town of Bowden over the weekend. Scenes on social media from the event were shocking. People sitting cheek by jowl in the stands, nary a mask in sight. The well-publicized event was held Saturday and Sunday.
You would have expected the leader of a province in the grips of an unprecedented public-health crisis to call for the full weight of the law to come down on those who put the event together. In fact, you might have expected the police to have broken the thing up. But no. They were present but didn’t write a single ticket.
So far, it appears the only reprisals the organizers will receive is a tongue-lashing from the premier, who called the event “disturbing” and a “slap in the face” to those Albertans who have been observing the rules.
Boy, with those types of consequences there won’t be another anti-COVID rodeo for at least a week.
Many Canadians are understandably jaded when it comes to so many aspects of the pandemic. And one of the things that has irked them most is the haphazard and mostly insufficient manner in which rule breakers have been treated.
Many have put lives at risk and never really paid a price for it.
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