OPP continue to investigate Kemptville anti-mask demonstration

Special to WC Online

KEMPTVILLE – Lanark County Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) say they are continuing to investigate a recent anti-mask demonstration in Kemptville last week (April 8) and charges could still be forthcoming.

Nearly 200, mainly maskless, people gathered at the South Branch Bistro April 8 for was termed a mask burning party. The event was promoted on social media and expected to start at 7 p.m. but was well underway by 6:30 p.m. The patio was packed with maskless party-goers shoulder to shoulder. The event was also attended by independent Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston MPP Randy Hillier who has regularly flouted COVID-19 emergency act laws.

Police patrolling the area at the time said their primary responsibility was keeping the peace and that “revellers did not get the confrontation they were seeking.”

Police and health unit officials document the event with camera phones.

Now that the event is behind them, the OPP is moving on to the criminal aspects of the event and charges may be coming for many.

“While the OPP continues to encourage everyone to follow the emergency measures and health recommendations, officers are conducting enforcement,” OPP community safety coordinator acting Sgt. Annie Collins released in a statement Tuesday (April 13). “OPP members continue to investigate and take necessary action in response to incidents reported under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA), the Re-opening Ontario Act (ROA) and the provincial Stay At Home order. We are working with local Public Health Units (PHUs), bylaw enforcement and other agencies. Public safety, including that of demonstrators, is always the top priority. As a result, charges may not be laid at the time of the incident but could be laid at a later time after a thorough investigation.”

The OPP say they have identified the “major players and instigators,” as well as the venue’s owners, and expected that serious charges would be laid in the days to come.

Fines are $750 for failing to comply with an order and/or $1,000 for preventing others (including individuals, employees or other workers) from following an order. Maximum fines for individuals are up to $100,000 and $10 million for a corporation. Failure to follow the rules can result in prosecution or jail time.

“Anyone who believes a gathering is not following the law or a business is operating illegally, should report it to their local municipal bylaw enforcement authorities or police service,” Collins said.

The OPP asks that 911 be used for emergency purposes only. If you have questions about the Stay-At-Home order please visit covid-19.ontario.ca/zones-and-restrictions. To learn more about COVID-19 support services, visit 211oncovid19.ca/ or call the hotline at 211 for assistance. 211 is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week and service is available in 150 languages.

“If you have any information on the above investigations or any other please contact the OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-(TIPS) 8477 or submit your tip on-line at www.ontariocrimestoppers.ca,” Collins said. “Crime Stoppers does not want your name, you don’t go to court and you could earn a cash reward.”

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