Toronto

Police professional standards unit investigating after cops post photo with anti-mask campaigner

Toronto police says its professional standards unit is investigating after a police-branded Instagram account posted a photo of two cops with an ardent anti-mask campaigner.

Mayor's office calls post 'ill-advised'

A Toronto police-branded account posted this image in an Instagram story over the weekend. It shows two officers with anti-mask campaigner Chris Sky. (TPSNeighbourhoodWatch/Instagram)

Toronto police says its professional standards unit is investigating after a police-branded Instagram account posted a photo of two cops with an ardent anti-mask campaigner.

The photo in question was posted over the weekend by the TPS neighbourhood watch account for 51 Division. In it, two officers can be seen smiling and standing next to Chris Sky, who is the head of a group called "Mothers Against Distancing."

Sky helped organize a protest against mandatory mask wearing on the TTC back in July, as well as weekly demonstrations against COVID-19 restrictions outside Queen's Park. Premier Doug Ford previously called protests like these "absolutely irresponsible" and "reckless."

Sky also helped distribute "exemption cards" in an attempt to get around emergency bylaws Toronto has enacted requiring face coverings in indoor public spaces. Masks are also now required in apartment and condo building common areas in the city.

He also hosts outdoor parties at Cherry Beach that flout physical distancing rules, where it appears this photo was taken.

In the Instagram story, police used the hashtags "#FreedomOfSpeech" and "#Advocate." They also tagged the Instagram account Sky shares with his wife, which routinely posts false information about the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as anti-vaccination information and a host of debunked conspiracy theories.

Sky helped organize a protest against face covering rules on the TTC. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Connie Osborne, acting manager of media relations for Toronto police, did not respond to a series of questions about the post, citing the ongoing professional standards review.

"As such, it would be inappropriate for us to comment any further at this stage," she said.

Lawvin Hadisi, a spokesperson for the mayor's office, said in a statement that "one ill-advised social media post" isn't reflective of the work that front-line workers have been doing over the last several months to stop the spread of COVID-19.

"Organizing a beach party in the midst of a pandemic and spouting anti-mask conspiracies puts people in danger and threatens the progress we have made saving lives and getting to the point where we can restart our economy," Hadisi said.

She did not, however, address a question about why the city is allowing these gatherings to continue without bylaw intervention.

"The best public health advice we have to stop the spread of COVID-19 tells us to wear a mask or face covering and to keep our distance from others outside our social circle," Hadisi said.

"The mayor encourages all residents to keep following that good advice so that we can return to normal as soon as it is safely possible."

About the Author

Adam Carter

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Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Toronto home. He enjoys a good story and playing loud music. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.

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