Crown drops more Saskatchewan Covid tickets

SASKATOON, SK: The Justice Centre is pleased to report that two more Covid public health order charges against its clients have recently been dropped by Saskatchewan Provincial Prosecutors, including a ticket against the Honourable Maxime Bernier for not masking at an election night rally in Saskatoon, and a charge against Tamara Lavoie for participating in an outdoor protest in Milden, SK.

Mask charge against Maxime Bernier

Justice Centre lawyers are defending Mr. Bernier and several others facing similar charges. On September 20, 2021, the People’s Party of Canada held an election night rally in Saskatoon. Mr. Bernier greeted supporters at the event and spoke without wearing a mask. On October 8, 2021, a Saskatoon Detective Inspector mailed Mr. Bernier a ticket for “failing to wear a face covering in an enclosed setting”.

In a letter from the Crown, Mr. Bernier was advised that the charge was being withdrawn. The ticket issued to Mr. Bernier had in fact required Mr. Bernier to appear in court on a statutory holiday, which may have contributed to the Crown’s decision to withdraw.

Protest charge against Tamara Lavoie

During a trial held in Outlook, Saskatchewan, on April 25, 2022, Provincial Prosecutors dropped a charge against Tamara Lavoie for attending an outdoor gathering, after police officers testifying for the Crown were unable to positively identify Ms. Lavoie in Court. Counsel for the Justice Centre questioned the witnesses who ultimately admitted that their knowledge of Ms. Lavoie’s identity originated from their trial preparations after the fact, rather than from personal knowledge or recollection of the actual event.

The Crown must provide reliable evidence that connects and identifies the defendant who is accused of an offence, without a reasonable doubt. This requirement protects citizens against wrongful conviction at the hands of the state, which possesses vast resources. Where the defendant cannot be identified, she or he must be acquitted.

Ms. Lavoie, Mr. Bernier, and six other individuals were charged with attending an outdoor protest and political gathering in Milden, Saskatchewan. The Provincial Prosecutors argued that there was a Public Health Order at the time outlawing outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people and that the gathering had more than 10 participants.

RCMP had been mobilized to perform surveillance of this event and video recorded everyone present at this allegedly illegal event.

With the basic facts now before the court, the trial is adjourned until the October 4, 2022 when expert witnesses retained by both the prosecution and the Justice Centre will be questioned on the effectiveness and necessity of restricting outdoor gatherings.

The Justice Centre lawyers continue to represent Mr. Bernier and four other defendants involved in this particular trial, and are also defending individuals at 16 other trials currently scheduled across Saskatchewan.

In each case the defendants are charged with attending outdoor protests against government Covid restrictions. No charges or tickets are known to have been issued against other protesting groups, including those for Black Lives Matter, which held protests in violation of public health orders.

Justice Centre lawyers have also filed a constitutional challenge with the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench against the restrictions on outdoor protests. The challenge will be argued in Saskatoon on June 29, 2022.

“We will continue to defend to the full extent of the law those charged with peacefully exercising their constitutional rights and freedoms,” states Justice Centre lawyer Marty Moore. “The charges against Mr. Bernier and Ms. Lavoie are just two of dozens of charges that prosecutors have had to drop against our clients for allegedly violating oppressive Covid restrictions.”