Ah, the good, ol’ days when we had politicians that called out ignorant mob behaviour rather than justifying or perhaps even encouraging it.
Quietly, Saskatchewan’s courtrooms have been seeing a steady stream of people charged with violating this province’s Public Health Act when parts of it were enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of course, quietly is a comparative adverb. Some cases have been a bit louder than others.
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For example, you may have heard a bit more about the cases involving former provincial Buffalo Party and federal People’s Party of Canada candidate Mark Friesen or Tamara Lavoie (who infamously helped organize noisy late-night truck rally protests down Albert Street a year ago).
The two have already seen a Saskatoon court uphold their fines for violating the public Ministry of Health orders by organizing a December 2020 rally in that city’s Kiwanis Park at the height of COVID-19 when such gatherings were prohibited.
We just heard closing arguments in another case in Regina where Friesen is fighting a public health ticket — this time, for a December 2020 rally at the Saskatchewan legislature.
You might remember that event for the boorish speech by a limelight-seeking self-proclaimed YouTube star who screamed at reporters “to get the f… out” before launching into a xenophobic and anti-immigrant rant aimed at Saskatchewan chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab.
So bad was this buffoonery that it immediately drew condemnation from former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall and current Premier Scott Moe.
Ah, the good, ol’ days when we had politicians who called out ignorant mob behaviour rather than justifying or perhaps even encouraging it.
Interestingly and appropriately, none of this is relevant to Friesen’s current case in Regina which Judge Murray Hinds is expected to rule on next week.
Across Saskatchewan in recent months, judges have patiently and quietly, waded through dozens upon dozens of such cases, sorting through issues that range from when is a crowd considered a crowd, to weighty matters of a province’s public health orders infringing on constitutionally guaranteed rights.
Many are fighting their own cases without legal counsel or, like Friesen, being accommodated so as not to have to appear personally. This will go on for months more, with some cases expected to be a bit noisier. One person charged is People’s Party of Canada founder and Leader Maxime Bernier.
But rest assured our court system will carry on in its fair and unbiased way. Our democratic system surely can’t function in any other way.
In fact, anything that impugns the independence and integrity of the courts is a serious matter, which takes us to the CBC story next door in Alberta alleging someone in Premier Danielle Smith’s office contacted Crown prosecution to challenge the assessment and direction of cases stemming from blockades of the Coutts border crossing.
The Alberta Public Services Commission claims to have done a thorough examination in search of an alleged email claiming contact between Smith staff and prosecution, and the premier is now demanding an apology and retraction from CBC.
Although it says it has not seen the email, the public broadcaster stands by what it describes as well-placed sources. Since, the CBC has raised another serious concern that the premier pressured Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro’s office in the case of Artur Pawlowski, charged with separate offences related to Coutts.
This will all have to play out, but as veteran Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid points out “many people still have trouble believing nothing improper happened” and will recall Smith campaigned on providing amnesty to the very people now charged.
Smith has offered several versions of whether her office sought amnesty advice from prosecution that would benefit those charged who helped get her elected as United Conservative Party leader. That would be problematic enough.
And while it’s a low-bar argument for Saskatchewan’s premier, who was quick to offer his initial support to “freedom convoy” truckers now charged, there’s at least some sense in Saskatchewan of what is too far.
The courts here are quietly and effectively handling matters that should only be handled by the courts.
Mandryk is the political columnist for the Regina Leader-Post and the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.
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