SASKATCHEWAN – A trial is underway for Maxime Bernier - the leader of the People’s Party of Canada - and seven others charged with attending an outdoor protest and political gathering in Milden, Sask.
The trial in Outlook circuit court for Bernier, along with Mark Friesen, Laura Lynn Thompson, Christine Brown, Conrad Goodsir, Tamara Lavoie, Luiz Penteado, and Brent Wintringhan started Monday. RCMP officers were scheduled to testify Monday.
The trial will adjourn Wednesday and then continue Oct. 4 – 6 when the court will hear testimony from Saskatchewan’s Medical Health Officer and two expert witnesses that will be called on behalf of Bernier and the other accused.
The eight were charged on May 10, 2021, after holding an outdoor protest and fundraiser in support of the Milden Hotel run by Brown. The hotel had been shut down by Saskatchewan Health Authority for allegedly not enforcing the requirement to wear face masks. In addition, Saskatchewan’s public health order at the time prohibited outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people.
The eight charged are being represented by constitutional lawyers from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, based out of Calgary, Alta.
There are currently 16 additional scheduled trials in which lawyers from the Justice Centre will be defending individuals charged for attending outdoor protests in Saskatchewan, all of which were protests against government Covid restrictions.
“Police did not issue tickets for those participating in other protests, including Black Lives Matter protests, which also violated the public health orders in place at the time,” said Marnie Cathcart, Director of Communications, Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.
Lawyers from the Justice Centre have also filed a constitutional challenge in the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench on the restrictions of outdoor protests imposed by the province’s public health orders. The challenge will be argued in Saskatoon June 29.
“The restrictions on outdoor protests to 10 persons were not justified when they were issued and the continued prosecution of those who attend anti-lockdown protests is even less justified,” said Marty Moore, Justice Centre lawyer Monday.
“The public health establishment cannot point to a single Covid case transmitted at an outdoor protest in Saskatchewan, yet a massive amount of prosecutorial resources, court time and defence efforts are being expended to prosecute people for peaceful outdoor protests,” added Moore.
“The Crown has doubled down on these tickets and the government has refused to acknowledge the unconstitutionality of its restrictions on outdoor protests.”
Restrictions under Saskatchewan’s public health order at the time included limits on gathering sizes and mandatory use of face masks.