City says it is considering “all available actions” to stop Meridian Place protests

The protests at the downtown square have been a regular fixture every Saturday since March 15. On April 17, 400-500 people attended with the event featuring People’s Party of Canada (PPC) leader Maxime Bernier.

The City is considering what it can do to stop the large anti-lockdown protests, called ‘Freedom’ rallies, at Meridian Place, including possible court action for an injunction to restrain the organizers.
Gatherings have taken place at the plaza contrary to the Provincial Stay-at-Home Order, provincial legislation and regulations, the City’s COVID-19 Emergency Measures By-law, and Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s public health guidelines.
Attendees have been seen not practicing physical distancing, and for the most part, are not wearing masks or face coverings. In a press release, the City say these gatherings threaten efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 in our community and may place further strain on our already stretched healthcare system.
While the gatherings remain subject to police enforcement with respect to the Provincial Stay-at-Home Order, provincial legislation and regulations, the City is exploring all available actions to stop them, it says.
The release say the City’s top priority continues to be the health and safety of Barrie residents and staff. The City urges all to comply with Ontario’s Stay-at-Home Order, provincial legislation and regulations, the City’s COVID-19 Emergency Measures By-law, and the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s public health guidelines.
Facbook petition launched by a local resident calling on city council to work with the Barrie Police Service to stop the rallies has attracted more than 1,600 signatures.
“I strongly believe that protests are an important part of our democracy. I have participated in hundreds of protests during my lifetime on many rights including our civil freedoms. What differs now is that we have a pandemic claiming lives, exhausting healthcare workers and taxing our healthcare systems at unprecedented levels,” says Anita Arvast.
Mayor Jeff Lehman and council also called for the protests to stop. 
“You may think this is about freedom, but it isn’t – you are only contributing to the spread of this virus, which in turn, robs people of their freedom by getting them sick. You are endangering the very people you think you are advocating for by making it unsafe for them to be in a public square,” he wrote in an open letter signed by all councillors.
The Barrie Police Service also cautioned protesters against attending the rallies, indicating that fines and court dates could be handed out. At last Saturday’s event, police issued eight tickets.
“We know that most of our community are doing their best to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to keep people healthy and to end the restrictions as quick as possible. We thank those that are following the rules and respecting public health recommendations” says Police Chief Kimberley Greenwood. 

Share