Manitoba

People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier leaves Manitoba after arrest for breaking pandemic rules

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has left Manitoba — for now. He’s set to appear in Winnipeg court next month.

Bernier flew back to Montreal Saturday morning after paying bail Friday, party says

Maxime Bernier was arrested in Manitoba Friday, accused of violating public health orders. He was released on bail later that day, the People's Party of Canada says. (Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press)

People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has left Manitoba — for now.

Bernier left on a flight back to Montreal at 9:45 a.m. on Saturday, the federal political party said in a news release. 

The update comes after Bernier's weekend tour of anti-lockdown rallies in the southern part of the province was cut short Friday afternoon, when he was arrested by RCMP for breaching provincial public health orders intended to curb the spread of COVID-19.

He was charged under the Public Health Act for assembling in a gathering at an outdoor public place and for failing to self-isolate once he got to Manitoba, RCMP spokesperson Tara Seel said Friday.

The arrest came after his second stop of the day, in the village of St-Pierre-Jolys, about 50 kilometres south of Winnipeg. He was also ticketed earlier that day at his first stop, in the nearby town of Niverville. He told a Radio-Canada reporter on Friday he planned to fight that ticket.
An anti-restrictions rally went ahead at The Forks Saturday despite Bernier leaving Manitoba. (Ian Froese)

Bernier was released Friday evening on the condition he follow public health orders while in Manitoba, RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Paul Manaigre said in a statement.

The penalties section of Manitoba's Public Health Act states the maximum sanction is a $100,000 fine, one year in jail or both.  

Bernier spent roughly eight hours in police custody in the RCMP detachment in St-Pierre-Jolys before paying a cash bail of $1,000 upon his release, the People's Party said.

He's set to appear in Winnipeg court on July 27.

A failure to agree to his bail conditions or any reoffence in Manitoba after his release could have seen Bernier jailed until that date, the party said. The release said he plans to continue to oppose pandemic restrictions, but did not indicate whether he still plans to fight the Manitoba charge.

Bernier knew he risked arrest during his tour of Manitoba but said he was still shocked to be "treat[ed] like a criminal," according to the news release.

Maxime Bernier was taken into custody by RCMP Friday in Manitoba. (Laïssa Pamou/SRC)

The tour was set to include stops in the cities of Morden and Winkler later Friday, despite pandemic restrictions banning large events and requiring people to self-isolate when entering the province if they're not fully vaccinated. 

Bernier was also expected to visit the communities of La Salle and Lorette, as well as Winnipeg, on Saturday, then the cities of Steinbach and Selkirk on Sunday, according to an itinerary posted on Facebook.

Rally goes ahead at The Forks 

Despite his leaving the province, about 250 people — mostly maskless — gathered at The Forks in the afternoon for an anti-restrictions rally. It was a larger turnout than the previous gathering at the same spot in late May. 

It began with a speaker calling attendees "bold" and "brave." "We gather here not to be against our leaders, but to pray for them," he said. 

Another spoke up in support of Bernier, saying he came to Manitoba even though he knew he could be arrested. 

 "He was willing to pay the price because he knows what he believes in," the speaker said. There was loud applause for the PPC leader at one point. 
A woman carrying a megaphone is shoved from behind at an anti-restrictions rally at The Forks. (CBC)

Tensions flared briefly when a masked woman with a siren-emitting megaphone was moving through the crowd and was shoved to the ground from behind by a man in a cowboy hat. 

CBC did not witness anyone be arrested or ticketed. Officials were seen taking photographs from a nearby parkade. 

Court decision over lockdown measures pending 

The Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said in a news release that it would appear in court on Bernier's behalf. 

The organization has been involved in challenges of lockdown measures across the country, including one in Manitoba that saw seven churches take the province to court over its pandemic powers.

No decision has been issued yet in that challenge.

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