A man allegedly attempting to organize an anti-vaccine protest and block roads in front of IG Field ahead of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers home opener has been arrested.
Patrick Joseph Robert Allard, 39, was using social media to rally anti-vaxxers outside the stadium Aug. 5, the Winnipeg Police Service said Thursday.
Allard was already bound by court order to not organize any gatherings contrary to public health orders. The fixture at local COVID-19 conspiracy protests was charged Thursday with failing to comply with conditions of a release order.
Only people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be allowed to attend Blue Bombers home games. The CFL team opens its 2021 season Aug. 5, against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Founding director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba, Arthur Schafer, said restricting access to certain privileges to just the vaccinated makes good legal and ethical sense.
"I don’t see this as wrongful discrimination... If we’re going to open up society and save ourselves educationally, socially, economically, emotionally without waiting until we get to zero COVID... we’re going to have to find safe ways of reopening as quickly as possible," Schafer said in a phone interview.
"It's to protect public safety."
However, Schafer added vaccine passports must be well-designed and reasonable accommodations, such as rapid testing, should be made available for the few who have legitimate medical exemptions and can't receive the vaccine or have suppressed immune systems which won't produce the required antibodies even after the jab.
A social media page that appears to be linked to Allard first posted about the planned protest July 20.
"There’s only two roads into the Winnipeg Blue Bombers stadium," reads the post. "I think we can block both with a rather small amount of people... ahead of their game."
Allard was released on bail May 28, following his arrest May 15 on a charge of breaching the Public Health Act.
His release conditions included a requirement he not organize, including requesting, inciting or inviting other individuals, or promote gatherings prohibited by the order made under the Public Health Act by social media or any other means of communication, court documents show.
On Thursday, Allard was again granted bail, with a cash deposit of $2,000. He appeared by video from police lockup.
As in his previous release order, Allard is prohibited from contacting or communicating with Sharon Vickner, Gerald Bohemier, Tobias Tissen, Tod McDougall and Chris Saccoccia of Ontario — all regular attendees at COVID conspiracy gatherings. The only exception in the order is McDougall, for work purposes.
At the time of Allard's alleged May 15 offence, public health orders banned all gatherings beyond a person's household members. Current orders allow outdoor gatherings in public to have up to 150 people, while those on private property can have up to 25.
However, the province has approved plans for the Blue and Gold to allow a full house of 33,500-plus, fully-vaccinated fans. Children under the age of 12 are permitted to attend, if accompanied by a parent or parents who are fully vaccinated.
Gameday staff also have to flash their COVID-19 immunization card or take a rapid test prior to work.
The Bombers were tight-lipped in response to reports of the planned protest.
"We are aware of this matter and we are working with the Winnipeg Police Service, as we do for all major events at IG Field. Planning and preparations continue as we get ready for the home opener," reads a statement from Wade Miller, Winnipeg Football Club president and chief executive officer.
— with files from Dean Pritchard and Jeff Hamilton
Erik Pindera is a multimedia producer at the Winnipeg Free Press.