Smithers RCMP planning to hand out tickets to “freedom rally” organizers

Joshua Azizi

Smithers RCMP is taking action in response to a "freedom rally" protest against COVID-19 health restrictions held in the city on Saturday.

Staff Sergeant Terry Gillespie says they're planning to send out tickets to three to five individuals who played a role in organizing and promoting the event, which Gillespie says violated the current ban on outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people.

He also says they're weighing the evidence they have to determine if the fines will be $230 or $2,300. 

Smithers Mayor Gladys Atrill observed the rally from a distance to see what was happening. She says she's frustrated by people openly flouting public health protocols and that she supports the RCMP's decision to levy fines. 

"I think it's the right thing to do. We do have the protocols that I believe are to help keep us healthy, and when so many people are following the rules, it is frustrating when people aren't. And when people are doing it flagrantly and with intent, then there are consequences and I support those consequences."

Previous protests against public health restrictions were held in Smithers in December and January. Atrill says that despite a few exceptions, most people in the town are complying with the public health orders. 

"Most of us are willing to follow the rules. We understand why, and even though day to day we might feel a bit stressed or a bit frustrated by it, we understand there's a bigger story here. This is a global pandemic, we're not in it by ourselves, so each one of us needs to do their part to keep ourselves healthy, our families and our communities healthy. And I think most people understand that and are doing their very best."

The Smithers Pride Society also released a statement in response to what they described as an "anti-trans hate speech" shared at the rally. 

They said the language in the speech was "intolerable" and that they extend their sympathies to the individuals and businesses who were targeted by members of the rally.

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