Premier Jason Kenney said he’s disappointed as anti-mask protesters continue to gather weekly in Calgary, saying there are other ways to protest government policy without putting lives at risk.
“It’s irresponsible to gather in large numbers, especially at this point in the pandemic. It shows a disregard for health-care workers and the vulnerable,” the premier wrote on Twitter following Saturday’s protest.
“Yes, we have Charter protected rights in Canada. But we also have responsibilities as citizens.”
The protests have been a weekly occurrence in the city, but this Saturday’s was only the second event since the province announced a 10-person limit on outdoor gatherings in an effort to limit spread of COVID-19.
… they could end up, at worst, pushing somebody into ICU or to their death.– Premier Jason Kenney
On Saturday, hundreds met in front of city hall before marching through downtown, expressing their disapproval of mandated masks and other public health measures.
Some attendees at the protests have expressed misinformation, saying vaccines can alter DNA or that masks cause bacterial or fungal infections. Members of far-right and white supremacist groups have also been seen in attendance.
On Saturday, the province hit multiple grim new records, with 1,879 new cases, 18,806 active cases, 563 in the hospital and 596 dead.
Alberta is currently the only province without a mask mandate, and the premier has been accused by health-care workers of not implementing sufficient restrictions to slow transmission of coronavirus.
Kenney also addressed those protesting public health restrictions in a Facebook live video on Thursday.
“I would remind them that as citizens, as Albertans and as Canadians, and just as people, as human beings, they also have social responsibilities … if they get together, in a large protest, close together, without taking the precaution of wearing a mask, they are creating a chance of transmission and at worst a super spreader event,” the premier said.
“They could end up unwittingly causing new cases that show up in our hospital beds, forcing the cancellation of someone’s surgery, maybe their own surgery … they could end up, at worst, pushing somebody into ICU or to their death, at worst.”
Kenney asked protesters why they would take that chance, when they could send emails and letters, sign online petitions or organize virtual protests instead.
“That’s what I would call exercising a right while also demonstrating responsibility and just compassion and care for others … even if you think public health restrictions have gone too far, how about you err on the side of caution and responsibility and care for your neighbours,” he said.
Six organizers of last week’s rally have been charged for breaching public health orders.
Police said no tickets were handed out this Saturday.
A first-time breach of the Public Health Act is a $1,200 fine.