Saskatoon

Official who welcomed anti-mask protester in Maple Creek is Sask. president of health inspectors' association

A Maple Creek, Sask., official caught on video shaking hands and welcoming an anti-mask protester last weekend is the president of the provincial chapter of the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors, CBC News has learned.

'These rallies do damage to our community, our province and the rest of Canada,' says former town councillor

Senior public health inspector Bradford Giesbrecht was videotaped shaking hands with an anti-mask rally organizer in Maple Creek, Sask., on Saturday. (Submitted by Jon Bowie)

A Maple Creek, Sask., official caught on video shaking hands and welcoming an anti-mask protester last weekend is a senior public health inspector and the president of the provincial chapter of a national health inspectors' association, CBC News has learned.

In the video, public health inspector Bradford Giesbrecht shakes hands with a man leading an anti-mask convoy in the town on Saturday. After shaking hands, Giesbrecht invites the maskless man to check out the local restaurants and tattoo parlour.

"You need anything, you let me know," Giesbrecht tells the man. "Awesome place, make sure you spend some time."

Giesbrecht is listed on the website of the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors as its Saskatchewan chapter president.

"It's incredibly reckless," said Michael Morrow, a former Maple Creek town councillor. "The public health inspector is supposed to keep us safe. I can't believe he'd do that."

The Saskatchewan Health Authority declined to discuss the actions of the senior public health inspector, but said anti-mask rallies in Maple Creek and other cities over the weekend have caused the authority to rethink its enforcement strategy.

"We are consulting with government on what can be done to ensure stronger and more consistent punitive actions are taken to ensure compliance with public health restrictions," the health authority said in an email.

Hundreds attended a rally in Saskatoon on Dec. 5, 2020, to protest mask-wearing, vaccines and a host of other issues. The Saskatchewan Health Authority says it will review its enforcement policies after the latest series of anti-mask protests over the weekend. (Mr. YXE/Twitter)

"In general, the SHA is highly concerned that these so called 'freedom' rallies and anti-masking events organized to protest public health precautions feed conspiracy theories and misinformation," the statement said. 

"They also send the false message that our health-care workers at the front line are somehow faking or making up the loss of life and trauma occurring as a result of COVID.

"This is not only offensive but dangerous, as it publicly downplays the significant risk of harm and death created by community transmission of this virus."

Premier Scott Moe and Health Minister Paul Merriman have also condemned the rallies, but it's unclear what, if any, enforcement action will be taken.

The Maple Creek event welcomed a caravan from out of province, while Saskatoon anti-maskers hosted a children's festival, complete with face painting.

Former Maple Creek town councillor Michael Morrow says it was wrong for a senior public health inspector to welcome an anti-mask protester last weekend. (Submitted by Michael Morrow)

Morrow and some other Maple Creek residents say they were horrified to see the health inspector welcoming protesters violating provincial health orders, which currently limit outdoor gatherings in Saskatchewan to a maximum of 10 people.

They see that as a symbol of the lax enforcement by police, public health officials and government, and say dangerous group gatherings must be stopped through strong enforcement.

"These rallies do damage to our community, our province and the rest of Canada," said Morrow.

The website for the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors says its members play an "integral" role during the pandemic in enforcing public health laws.

Neither the CIPHI nor Giesbrecht could be reached for comment.

Alberta health officials are warning anyone who attended the cross-country protest that stopped in Maple Creek to get tested and isolate after a COVID-19 case was confirmed among the participants.

The Maple Creek area is currently dealing with rising case counts and hospitalizations, in part due to large maskless gatherings, according to health officials.

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