London

'Freedom rally' organizers charged after 200-person event

Three women who organized London's "Lawful Freedom Rally" are facing charges for hosting an event that exceeded gathering limits under provincial rules.  

Police will not name the accused but one woman who said she organized the event is a nurse banned from work

Kristen Nagle (left) and Myriam Cottard, who said ahead of the event that they organized London's 'freedom rally,' speak in Victoria Park on Nov. 22, 2020. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC News)

Three women who organized London's "Lawful Freedom Rally" are facing charges for hosting an event that exceeded provincial gathering limits.  

On Sunday, about 200 people attended the rally at Victoria Park to protest COVID-19 public health measures, such as mandatory masks and physical distancing, calling them an infringement on their rights.

London police say they had identified the three organizers prior to the event and told them that hosting a large rally would violate the Reopening Ontario Act and could lead to charges.

Members of the police attended the rally and confirmed the number of participants exceeded the outdoor gathering limit of 25 people. 

Around 200 people attended the rally on Sunday protesting COVID-19 public health measures, calling them an infringement on their rights. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

Now, the three London women, aged 36, 37 and 44, have been charged with hosting an outdoor gathering and participating in an outdoor gathering exceeding the number of people permitted.

London police did not name the women.

The event was organized by Sweaty Successful Moms, a community group. The rally was billed as a family-friendly event. 

"Our rights and freedoms are being stripped away. We no longer have freedom to choose. Our sovereignty is being removed. It is time to rise! It is time to come together in a peaceful family friendly protest and start a Health Revolution," organizers wrote in a media release. 

One of the organizers of the rally, and a co-founder of Sweaty Successful Moms, is Kristen Nagle, a neonatal intensive care nurse working at the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC). It is not yet known if she is one of the people facing charges. 

LHSC said in a statement Wednesday that it is investigating Nagle and that she is currently not working shifts. 

"While we are not able to address the specifics of an internal investigation due to privacy, please be assured that this nurse cannot return to work during the investigation which, given the complexity, is anticipated to take some time," the statement read. 

The College of Nurses of Ontario, which regulates the profession, also said Wednesday it is investigating Nagle. 

The three women who are charged are set to appear in court on Feb. 22. If convicted, fines for breaking provincial regulations under the Reopening Ontario Act start at $10,000 and can go up to $100,000 for a host. It could also mean jail time of no more than a year. 

In the case of an individual, subject to clause (b), to a fine of not less than $10,000 and not more than $100,000 and for a term of imprisonment of not more than one year;

Anyone who has concerns about people or businesses who are not following COVID-19 related orders are asked to email the city at COVIDOrderConcerns@london.ca or call 519-661-4660. 

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