Accused COVID-19 protest organizer could be third fined in CK
It took more than two years, but a Wallaceburg woman accused of organizing a protest in Chatham against COVID-19 restrictions in 2020 will find out her punishment, if any, in April.
The case of Laura Myers, 34, was up at Provincial Offences Court in Blenheim on Tuesday, where a date of April 25, 2023 was set for a decision.
Myers was charged with failing to comply with the Reopening Ontario Act after a protest at Tecumseh Park on November 21, 2020 and a march through the downtown afterwards. The rally held by the Chatham-Kent Freedom Group was attended by about 100 people.
Chatham-Kent police previously said a ticket was issued because the protest exceeded the 25 person outdoor limit imposed by the province at that time in the pandemic.
Several discussions between the defence and the prosecution to resolve the matter were unsuccessful.
Myers could be fined between $10,000 and $100,000 and spend up to one year in jail, if she’s convicted.
During her trial on October 17, 2022, the defence lawyer for Myers said his client reached out to Chatham-Kent police through its Facebook page before the rally to notify them of the protest. Police Sergeant Doug Cowell said the plans for the event and COVID-19 restrictions were later discussed by phone.
Cowell also noted that Myers told him that she was aware of the restrictions in place and later identified herself as the organizer of the event when they met in person at the protest. He also said he saw Myers speak through a megaphone to welcome the group on that day.
The defence also tried to poke holes in the evidence by asking if police or the municipality had proof the people gathered at the protest were not part of the same family or social bubble, something that was allowed at the time, and questioned the accuracy of the notes taken by the authorities.
Liz Vallee is the first Chatham-Kent protester to get penalized for holding an anti-lockdown rally. Vallee was fined $2,000 after pleading guilty in May of 2022 to violating the Reopening Ontario Act by organizing anti-lockdown protests in Chatham on April 17 and 18, 2021 during the pandemic.
The principal of the Dresden Private Mennonite School, Heinrich Unger, was also fined $2,000 by the Provincial Offences Court in Blenheim in August 2022 for violating the Reopening Ontario Act by holding a holiday event for parents and students in December of 2020 during a COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.