British Columbia

B.C. COVID-19 conspiracy theorist charged with breaking quarantine law

A notorious Metro Vancouver COVID-19 conspiracy theorist is in custody and charged with breaking mandatory quarantine after returning from a Flat Earth conference in the U.S.

Mak Parhar bragged in speech to supporters about violating rules after U.S. Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar, centre, posted this photo to Facebook during his trip to South Carolina for a Flat Earth conference. (Mak Parhar/Facebook)

A notorious Metro Vancouver COVID-19 conspiracy theorist is in custody for repeatedly breaking mandatory quarantine after returning from a Flat Earth conference in the U.S.

Mak Parhar is charged with three counts of breaking the Canada Quarantine Act, according to court records, and made his first appearance in court on Tuesday.

New Westminster police say Parhar is being held at a regional corrections facility.

He was arrested on Nov. 2, after being reminded of federal legislation requiring international travelers to self-isolate for 14 days, and after being served a violation ticket. 

Sgt. Sanjay Kumar said Parhar "refused to comply and continued leaving his residence."

"Our priority is the safety of New Westminster residents," said Kumar. "This is something we take very seriously."

According to his Facebook page, Parhar recently travelled to South Carolina for an event called Flatoberfest 2020 — a gathering of conspiracy theorists who believe the Earth is flat.

Parhar made an appearance at a rally in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday and bragged about breaking the mandatory 14-day self-isolation period upon his return to Canada.

"I'm not going to put myself in prison, because I'm a free man with god-given rights," Parhar told a small gathering of COVID-19 conspiracy theorists in a video posted to YouTube.

Court records show that he's accused of violating quarantine on Oct. 31, Nov. 1 and Nov. 2. 

In his rambling speech at the art gallery this weekend, Parhar bragged about taking off his face mask on planes to and from the U.S., and about refusing to fill out federal government quarantine forms when he landed at Vancouver International Airport.

He claimed a border agent was "rattled" by his suggestion that the Quarantine Act doesn't apply to him, and said he told them he's not legally a "traveller" or a "person" under the law.

"They're not used to people who aren't obedient little sheep," Parhar said in Sunday's speech.

Parhar bragged in a speech at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday about refusing to self-isolate after returning to Canada. (YouTube)

The claim that he's not legally a person lines up with yet another conspiracy theory, the "natural person" argument used by certain tax evaders who say only "artificial persons" need to pay taxes or obtain a licence to drive. The argument has been rejected over and over again in Canadian courts.

Parhar also spoke in Sunday's speech about police visiting his house on multiple occasions over the weekend to fine him for breaking quarantine, and mocked an officer who revealed a relative had recently died of COVID-19.

"People don't die of COVID, because — you guys already know this — COVID doesn't exist," Parhar told his supporters.

Business licence pulled in March

Parhar has had a high profile in Vancouver-area protests against COVID-19 restrictions since the beginning of the pandemic.

In March, the City of Delta pulled the business licence for his hot yoga studio after he encouraged clients to continue attending classes, falsely claiming the novel coronavirus "cannot survive in the heat."

With his business closed, Parhar began using his studio for gatherings of like-minded people who believe COVID-19 is a hoax. One meeting in April was reported to Delta police after a video was posted online, but Chief Neil Dubord told CBC at the time that his officers had no power to take action.

Since then, Parhar has sold his hot yoga business and it is now under new ownership and management.

Parhar also attracted the attention of police in his hometown of New Westminster in the spring after he filmed a video in which he "investigated" the COVID-19 isolation area at Royal Columbian Hospital.

Parhar's next appearance in New Westminster provincial court is scheduled for Nov. 16.

The maximum penalty for a summary conviction under the Quarantine Act is $300,000 and/or imprisonment for up to six months. If the Crown proceeds with an indictment, reserved for the most serious offences, a convicted person could face a fine of up to $1 million and up to three years in prison.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bethany Lindsay

Journalist

Bethany Lindsay is a B.C. journalist with a focus on the courts, health, science and social justice issues. Questions or news tips? Get in touch at bethany.lindsay@cbc.ca or on Twitter through @bethanylindsay.

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