Petition calls on police to enforce restrictions on large gatherings like the ongoing one at Meridian Place

In launching the petition, Barrie resident Anita Arvast says the protests are endangering public health, adding they shouldn’t be happening while an increasingly stressed healthcare system is struggling to cope with COVID-19 admissions


A Facbook petition launched by a local resident calling on city council to work with the Barrie Police Service to stop the large gathering of people at Meridian Place protesting the Province’s stay-at-home order is gaining support, attracting hundreds of signatures in less than 48 hours.
The protests at the downtown square have been a regular fixture every Saturday since March 15, with the most recent event featuring People’s Party of Canada (PPC) leader Maxime Bernier, attracting 400-500 people. The province-wide order prohibits all outdoor social gatherings and organized public events, except for with members of the same household or one other person from outside that household who lives alone, or a caregiver for any member of the household.
In launching the petition, Barrie resident Anita Arvast says the protests are endangering public health, adding they shouldn’t be happening while an increasingly stressed healthcare system is struggling to cope with COVID-19 admissions
“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,” she says.
“People are dying because of community infection. Our healthcare professionals are warning that we are entering into a triage phase where they will be required to decide who gets to live and who doesn’t. They didn’t sign up for these decisions.”
Among those urging residents to sign the petition is Todd Tuckey, President of the Greater Barrie Chamber of Commerce.
“Please sign this petition. Our hospitals are overflowing and soon we will force our doctors to play God and decide who has the best chance for survival. Don’t put our doctors in this position or our lives in danger. They announced yesterday that some cancer surgeries and transplant surgeries are being postponed. These types of gatherings are not helping anyone, they are hurting Barrie businesses that now have to close during these rallies as patrons are afraid to go downtown. This has to stop now,” he said.
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. 
And in a tweet, Suzanne Legue, Vice President Strategy at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, says that over the past two weeks, the hospital “has accepted more than 60 patient transfers from the GTA to do our part to keep the hospital system functioning. Many of those patients are critically ill. Our ICU is full & we have just opened a 3rd COVID unit. Please follow safety measures.”
In her petition, Arvast calls for enforcement of the rules prohibiting large gatherings.
“I appreciate that city council and police have moved forward with the greatest of caution. Education is absolutely the first resort. But when education continually fails to prevent people from breaking the law and putting people, businesses and our very community at risk, we need to move on to enforcement.”

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