Why Saskatoon police steered clear of mostly-maskless People's Party of Canada event
While they were aware that many attending the People's Party of Canada's national election night event in Saskatoon were ignoring the province's masking order, police chose a more hands-off approach.
The event attracted well over 200 supporters, the bulk of whom flouted the province's public health order requiring masks indoors to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Party Leader Maxime Bernier could be seen working his way through the crowd and posing for pictures at the event, held in a city that is currently the province's COVID-19 hotspot.
During the evening, Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) took to social media to say it was aware of the event and would be working with health inspectors to follow up.
However, no there were no obvious signs of police intervention the night of the gathering.
That's something SPS Deputy Chief of Police Randy Huisman said was deliberate due to the high-profile nature of the event.
"We just didn't want to make the event about what the Saskatoon police did, we didn't want to be the big story," Huisman told CTV News.
Huisman said there were concerns that the arrival of police and health inspectors at the event may have escalated the situation.
"Public health inspectors have been tasked with the enforcement of the order, but they would not be able to manage that themselves, there was just too many people and it's a public safety and officer safety consideration," Huisman said.
"I know some people felt like more enforcement action could have taken place, right then and there that evening, but those are some of the considerations we have to look at."
It's an approach SPS has consistently taken throughout the pandemic in how it's handled a series of "freedom" rallies held in the city by individuals critical of public health measures often flouting the rules they are protesting against.
"As we have done in over the summer with (the) demonstrations, we do post-rally or post-gathering investigation and we work collaboratively with public health inspectors and provide them with intelligence and help them identify individuals (who will be charged)," Huisman said.
According to Huisman, the investigation into the PCC election night celebration could take several weeks, requiring police to sift through "intelligence" and video.
"We've had a number of people contact us in providing us with names so once we verify and do positive identifications and consult further with the public health inspectors, then those tickets would be drafted and issued."
An individual found to be breaking a public health order can be fined up to $10,500 in Saskatchewan.
A penalty increased by the Saskatchewan government earlier this year, largely in response to events that openly violated COVID-19-related measures.
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