Saskatchewan Mask Challenge – R v. Friesen, Bernier

September 20, 2021, was a big night for Canadians as voters waited for ballots to be counted and the results to be rolled out across the country’s time zones. In Saskatoon that evening the Peoples Party of Canada (PPC) held a rally. Two candidates there, PPC leader Maxime Bernier, and Mark Friesen, had run with a policy platform that offered an alternative to the government and media narrative. They ran on opposing lockdowns, vaccination mandates, mask mandates, and travel bans.

The Honourable Maxime Bernier has had a robust and diverse career in Ottawa. He was first elected as a Member of Parliament in 2006, with roles including Minister of Industry, Foreign Affairs, and Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism, under Stephen Harper. He resigned from his position in the Conservative Party on August 18, 2018, in order to start the People’s Party of Canada.

Mark Friesen, the PPC candidate for the Saskatoon/Grasswood riding, helped to host the rally for his supporters. Mark has lived in the riding almost all his life. Known as the “Grizzly Patriot” on social media, Mark is a freedom advocate with a large online following. He is the founder and CEO of the Forum for Canadian Sovereignty, “a non-governmental organization actively opposing the globalist agenda.” Mark is a small business owner with 25 years’ experience in uniform as a Corrections Officer, both federally and provincially. As a political candidate, Mark believes in standing up for the little guy. He hopes to be a voice in leading the way to a future in Canada “where politicians and bureaucrats get out of your way rather than trying to control the economy and every aspect of your life.”

But even as they celebrated the hard work they had invested in the riding and in the country during the election night rally, government policies were at work against them. Saskatoon police with cameras attended the rally to capture footage and faces. Saskatchewan’s Public Health Orders made being at the rally with one’s face showing a criminal act.
Police made plans to charge both Mark Friesen and Honourable Maxime Bernier for not wearing masks while interacting with people at the rally with fines close to three thousand dollars. Police delivered a ticket on October 21, 2021, to Mark Friesen for allegedly violating the Public Health Order.

For not wearing a mask while speaking and greeting on election night, police sent a ticket to Maxime at his home in Quebec. That ticket, however, had a court date for a statutory holiday. He was later notified by the Crown that the ticket had been dropped.

The police then issued another charge against Maxime for not wearing a mask at the September 20, 2021, rally.

Forcing political candidates to wear a mask covering half their face while greeting and addressing their supporters as election night results come in clearly restricts a significant amount of non-verbal communication. One of the core purposes for Canada’s constitutional protection for expression is to promote democratic discourse.

Lawyers provided by the Justice Centre will be defending Maxime Bernier and Mark Friesen against these charges and challenging the constitutionality of the mask mandate on their behalf.