Authorities say the legal actions being taken against an anti-mask rally leader and others are a natural progression of previous enforcement efforts.
Inspector Nick Paulet of the Winnipeg Police Service says six individuals have an arrest warrant out for them, including an anti-mask rally leader under the Provincial Offences Act of not following the Public Health Orders. The Public Safety Investigations Unit issued the warrants to individuals not following the Public Health Orders, which Paulet says could come from a variety of health order violations.
"A warrant is a higher response than the issuance of a ticket but it is mirrored by the actions of the individual on the receiving end," Paulet in a media conference Friday afternoon.
One of the six warrants obtained has resulted in an arrest. The warrant is enforceable only in Manitoba, with all Manitoban policing agencies having the power to execute the warrants. Manitobans for Change said in a Facebook video Manitoban Patrick Allard was arrested.
"The reality is there is a number of tools available to investigators and to law enforcement under the Provincial Offences Act," Paulet says.
Chris Saccoccia, also known as Chris Sky, currently has an arrest warrant out for him in Manitoba. Paulet would not comment on if they expect Sky to show up at a Winnipeg rally scheduled for Friday. The Provincial Offences Act warrant is for his previous actions in Manitoba hosting a large anti-mask rally at the Forks, which was against the Public Health Orders. He is the only person of the six with a warrant the WPS would name. Saccoccia told his followers this week he did not intend to step foot in Manitoba Friday after promoting a rally in the city weeks earlier. He was arrested last week for uttering death threats to Ontario's Premier, Doug Ford, assault of a peace officer, and other charges. His discharge from custody came with a curfew to remain in his Ontario home each evening.
Tobias Tissen, a pastor at The Church of God Restoration south of Steinbach writes on Facebook that he has an arrest warrant out for him but did not name for what. Tissen hosted a rally in early May at the Manitoba Law Courts with over 100 attendees outside, as seven churches and others were inside fighting the health orders. Police would not comment if Tissen is part of the six people with warrants out.
Warrants after a ticket
Paulet says warrants are a natural progression after education and ticketing people not following the Public Health Orders. He says it takes time before a warrant is executed. Investigations are required to tell a judge why they think a warrant is needed and lay out previous actions that have been taken.
"It is a tiered measure for options of law enforcement to consider as we have an objective to achieve," Paulet says. "It is a natural progression now over a period of time if those tickets failed to achieve something that would be in the public interest or public safety, there are obligations on officials to increase their efforts in order to achieve what the objective of the act."
He says it started with education, upgrading to tickets, and now has escalated to warrants. Warrants are not exclusive to those who attend rallies.
Police will be present at a scheduled Friday rally.
Public Health, Winnipeg Mayor responds to public gatherings
Manitoba's Deputy Chief Public Health Officer is asking Manitobans to follow the Public Health Orders, saying COVID has risk.
"I think people attending rallies or organizing rallies have to maybe open their eyes a little bit here," Dr. Jazz Atwal says in a Friday afternoon press conference.
The doctor says the province's acute care system is struggling to keep up with COVID-19 patients needing intensive care and is "shipping people out of the province" for care.
"Those are real numbers. Those are real people."
Mayor Brian Bowman is urging Manitobans to not attend a rally scheduled for Friday evening. He is calling for a "superfine" of $100,000 for people who organize rallies against the health orders. He says this will deter the events from being organized and "show respect for all of those Winnipeggers who are following the rules."