Judge fines five defiant, repeated COVID rule-breakers total of more than $100K

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Fined $34,000 for repeatedly breaching public-health orders intended to curb the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Patrick Allard said he had no regrets as he walked out of the Winnipeg Law Courts Thursday afternoon.

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Fined $34,000 for repeatedly breaching public-health orders intended to curb the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Patrick Allard said he had no regrets as he walked out of the Winnipeg Law Courts Thursday afternoon.

“My only regret is that I didn’t go harder and I wasn’t louder,” said Allard, 40.

Allard and co-defendants Gerry Bohemier, 72, Sharon Vickner, 54, Todd McDougall, 37, and Church of God (Restoration) pastor Tobias Tissen, 27, were individually charged with 50 counts of violating public health orders restricting outdoor gatherings between November 2020 and May 2021. The five organized, attended or spoke at anti-lockdown rallies in Winnipeg, Steinbach and Winkler.

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Patrick Allard (Right) speaks to Tobias Tissen as they leave the Manitoba courts in Winnipeg.

Provincial court Judge Victoria Cornick fined the five defendants a total of just more than $100,000, approximately $25,000 less than the total amount recommended by the Crown.

“Without being harsh, the fines must be substantial enough to warn others that the offences will not be tolerated,” she said.

Cornick imposed reprimands for each defendant’s first offence followed by fines of increasing severity.

“Receipt of multiple tickets did nothing to deter the actions of any of these individuals,” Cornick said. “Their involvement spanned months and were not isolated incidents.”

All five admitted to committing the offences in agreed statements of facts provided to court, a move that preserves their right to appeal. Defence submissions included the filing of two medical reports they argued showed the risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus at outdoor gatherings was very low.

Cornick said she gave the reports little weight. “There is no expert telling this court that outdoor transmission is impossible,” Cornick said as she addressed the charges against Allard.

“The debate as I see it is not whether transmission exists or not, or whether it is too low to be the subject matter of restriction,” she said. “What the report tells me is that the risk of harm to the public was comparatively low relative to other activities such as an indoor gathering. It is not a mitigating factor that Mr. Allard did not engage in an activity of higher risk to the public health.”

Last month, the five defendants argued a motion alleging the public-health orders violated their charter rights. Cornick dismissed the motion earlier this month, ruling the issue had already been settled in an October decision by Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal dismissing court challenges by Gateway Bible Baptist Church and six other churches.

Cornick described as “troubling” the suggestion the defendants did not accept the validity of their public-health order tickets until the Gateway Baptist case had been decided.

“This is… not how the justice system operates,” she said. “from time to time laws are challenged for one reason or another, but the rule of law is not suspended pending that determination.”

The five defendants each addressed court at a sentencing hearing Wednesday, showing no remorse or insight into their actions, Cornick said.

“There’s no suggestion that they could have gone about their purpose differently,” she said.

Bohemier, a retired chiropractor and “natural health” proponent, told court Wednesday he felt it was his duty to inform the public about the “weaknesses of the medical community,” the danger of rushing to approve vaccines against COVID-19 and the “uselessness” of wearing a mask.

“If Mr. Bohemier’s intention was to educate and warn, there were other avenues available to him.” Cornick said.

Tissen, in his own address Wednesday, complained he “did not choose” to attend court and that his charter rights had been violated.

Tissen is no different than any other law-breaker compelled to appear in court, Cornick said, adding it was Tissen’s “choice” to disregard pandemic restrictions.

dean.pritchard@freepress.mb.ca

Dean Pritchard

Dean Pritchard
Courts reporter

Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.

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