Approximately 40 people gathered outside Kingston City Hall on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, for a demonstration against COVID-19 lockdown measures. Described by organizers as a “Freedom March,” the event featured speakers from the non-profit organization Stand Up Canada.
“These COVID measures are violating our rights,” said Stand Up Canada spokesperson Paula Tochier. “Business rights have been violated when they were shut down originally by lockdown. Businesses are also violating their employee rights and their patron rights by enforcing these measures.”
Ottawa paralegal Jane Scharf also travelled to Kingston to speak at the event.
“This is about the overreach at the Adamson BBQ,” she explained, referencing an Etobicoke restaurant that was forcibly shut down by police and City of Toronto Public Health Officials on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020 and again Thursday Nov. 26, 2020.
The owner, Adam Skelly, kept the restaurant open in defiance of a city-wide lockdown imposed by the provincial government on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. The restaurant was also the site of anti-mask protests during the week. Skelly faces a number of charges, including attempting to obstruct police, mischief, failing to comply with a continued order under the Reopening Ontario Act, and failing to leave when directed under the Trespass to Property Act.
“I’m a licensed paralegal and I did the research,” Scharf said. She said that police and public health officers have no authority under the Health Protection and Promotion Act or the Reopen Ontario Act to occupy a business, even if it is in violation of lockdown measures.
Section 22 of the Provincial Health Protection and Promotion Act gives a Medical Officer of Health the explicit authority to close a premises where they perceive the risk of an outbreak of communicable disease.
Scharf said that most Public Health should do is issue a closure statement. “Once they’re closed, it’s a high fine if you stay open. A fine — but not police, not going in and smashing down the doors and boarding everything up. That’s all illegal,” she said. “They’re stomping all over the constitutional rights.”
While Kingston is not in lockdown, Scharf said local constituents should be concerned because “things could change here.”
According to Kingston, Fronteanc, Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health, local enforcement actions are determined on a case-by-case basis and are informed by the applicable laws. “KFL&A enforcement partners work together to determine the appropriate response which could include warnings, fines, summons, or closures,” they said.
Mixed messages from the crowd
Some people in the crowd held signs that read “Facts over fear,” “Not anti-mask, pro choice” and “Flatten the fear.” One person carried an Ontario flag, another a United Nations flag with a black “X” taped across it. Two others appeared to be wearing yellow vests in solidarity with the populist, grassroots Yellow Vest movement. One announced into a megaphone that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party want to turn Canada into a communist country.
“Isn’t it funny how we have to stay home and be locked down, but the politicians can go anywhere they want, any time they want, at our expense?” she asked.
“We will be under communism, a new world order, the great reset in which you will not own any private property. Do the research!”
“Our message is love. We’re against tyranny,” said another demonstrator, who asked to be identified simply as Donny who is from Kingston. “I’m not trying to tell people no more social distancing, no more masks and no more lockdowns. Protect the elderly and the sick — sure, we should give them all the support they need.”
“But to shut down the economy, this is not about the virus,” he said. “This is about bankrupting the world. About making as many people poor and helpless as possible, so they’ll accept anything.”
Donny said that mainstream media is propaganda created by “the system,” and suggested that modern government officials are drawing on the playbook of notorious German dictator Adolf Hitler.
“Hitler, he had a quote. He said if you tell a lie, big enough and loud enough, often enough, then people will believe anything you tell them. If you go online and search ‘Hitler, famous quotes,’ go through them. You’ll be surprised at how many of them are being applied right now.”
Event hosts selling memberships
Tochier offered memberships to Stand Up Canada to people to the audience during her speech, which she explained come with 30-minutes of free legal advice. Memberships are listed for sale on Stand Up Canada’s website for $100.
“If you’re a business and you’ve suffered a loss due to lockdown, and you want to represent yourself, we have a membership for you,” she said. “If you want to stay open and you’re defying the orders, we have a membership for that.”
“If you’re not wearing a mask based on creed, which is under the Human Rights Code in Ontario, or you’re not wearing a mask based on the bylaw or Provincial order, or you’re not wearing a mask based on medical condition, there’s a membership for you.”
UPDATE Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020: This article has been updated since its publication to include comments from KFL&A Public Health.
With files from Cris Vilela