Manitoba fines nearly 3 dozen attendees of anti-mask, anti-lockdown rallies
Repeat offenders could see fines increased amid surging hospital numbers in Manitoba
Enforcement officers have doled out over $40,000 in tickets to Manitobans who've attended various anti-mask and anti-lockdown rallies this month and more fines are on the way, the government says.
So far, officers have issued 32 tickets at $1,296 a pop in relation to illegal rallies in Winkler and Winnipeg, says the latest enforcement update, released Tuesday by the province.
That includes 22 fines to people who went to a rally outside the Winnipeg Law Courts on May 3, with most of those tickets handed out after the fact.
About 150 people, most of them unmasked and not distanced, grouped up outside the building in support of seven churches in the middle of a legal battle against public health orders that restrict or prohibit gatherings.
A total of eight tickets have been issued to participants in an anti-mask rally at The Forks on May 1, one of several at the popular gathering spot in recent weeks.
Another two people were fined at a rally in Winkler, Man., on the same day, the province said.
Officers also issued 97 warnings and 60 tickets provincewide from May 3 to 9, amounting to almost $72,500 in fines.
Four out of every five tickets — 47 of 60 — related to illegal gatherings on private property, inside or outdoors, the province said. Nine people were ticketed for failing to wear a mask at an indoor public place, three were fined for failing to isolate and one business was fined $5,000.
The latest figures were released days after Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced the fine amounts for repeat offenders will increase, including for those previously caught violating mask rules.
Fine amounts will rise to $486 for those who've received two or more tickets for not wearing a mask (up from $298) and $2,542 for those who have received two or more tickets for other offences (up from $1,296). There is no change to fines for businesses.
Current data from the province suggests only 10 per cent of pandemic fines have been paid. Moving forward, those who fail to pay fine fees on time will get dinged an additional $100 penalty on top of the fine amount, up from $50.
"I'm saying to those folks, you will pay your fine. And if you do not, you will not be driving your car. We will not issue you a driver's licence. You can put your car up on blocks and you can leave it there until you pay your fine," Pallister said on Friday.
"And if you don't drive, we will garnish your wages. You will pay."
Manitoba COVID-19 cases continue to spike and hospitalizations have surged in recent weeks.
A new range of widespread business closures and restrictions on gatherings came into effect last week to help reduce cases, and all schools in Brandon and Winnipeg (and some outside those cities) will switch to remote learning on Wednesday.
The seven churches fighting public health orders are back in court again this week.
The province encourages Manitobans to report enforcement issues online or by calling a provincial line at 204-945-3744 or (toll-free) 1-866-626-4862.