The Discussion of Protesting During COVID-19

By: Gary Horseman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,  Four-Town Journal
Protesting has almost been a way of life, a part of our society. It is a way for people to show how happy, or not, they are with something.
There is a question raging which is “Does being in a pandemic or a health crisis make it so people cannot protest?” Members of the public have voiced their concern that they cannot show their likes or dislikes using this effective strategy.
During this pandemic, the provincial government has had to issue many health care advisories that have put a major strain on all aspects of our lives. With the freedom of speech, some have taken to the roadside or the legislative grounds to voice their speech with a group of other like-minded individuals.
Yet, it is against the health advisory and therefore could result in a fine. Thankfully not a bigger one with the Sask. Party voting against larger fines against organizers of these events recently.
Over the weekend, Sask. Party MLAs voted against stronger fines for organizers breaking provincial health orders around mass gatherings.
On Saturday, May 1, Official Opposition Deputy Leader Nicole Sarauer moved amendments to  Bill 23 – The Emergency Planning Amendment Act. These amendments proposed a specific offence for organizing a protest in contravention of public health measures with a fine of not less than $10,000. On Friday, April 20, Sarauer wrote the government to inform them of her intent to introduce these amendments.
“Recent developments have made it clear that the current penalties for violating public health orders are not providing sufficient deterrence, especially for those who are brazenly organizing these demonstrations,” said Sarauer. “Events like these set off a chain reaction of sickness, hospitalizations and death across the province.”
The Sask. Party government is well aware that the events are being ‘organized by a small, consistent group’ who continue to put public health at risk. Despite pleas from Saskatchewan officials and COVID patients for stronger enforcement, it has become clear that serious penalties are of no interest to the Sask Party. “Creating serious implications to public health should result in serious consequences,” said Sarauer, citing twenty-seven tickets issued in Nova Scotia over the weekend. “Organizing mass demonstrations like the ones we have seen across our province put us all at risk.”
Not only can it result in fines but as some protesters found out in Regina at a recent protest, can get you physically harassed by anti-protesters.
An email came across the majority of newspaper desks early on Monday showing a photo of the protests in Regina where a fight occurred. It explained this individual was attacked by those wishing to stop the protest. The email talked about questions and freedom of thought not being tolerated anymore.