Editor's note: This article has been updated from the original to include additional context.
DIDSBURY - Town council will be holding a discussion about the Jan. 30 rally held in town where hundreds of people gathered in support of lifting COVID-19 restrictions, says mayor Rhonda Hunter.
The one-hour Didsbury rally held outdoors saw about 250 people in attendance with most not wearing masks or face coverings, and with few examples of social distancing.
Current provincial COVID restrictions allow for a maximum of 10 persons at outdoor activities, with all attendees required to remain distanced at all times.
The rally was spearheaded by the recently formed Mountain View Freedom community group.
“Obviously our council will have a discussion about it and get as much information as we can,” said Hunter.
Asked if she is concerned the rally may lead to COVID spread in the community, she said, “What the (province's) facts and data are telling us is that events like that can be super-spreaders, and if they can be super-spreaders there must be a concern that they might be. Everyone is fair in having a concern over that. One person or two people can create that situation.”
The Town of Didsbury “supports the chief medical officer of health and our residents and businesses following the recommendations of the public health orders for the best interest and well-being of our community,” she said.
Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills UCP MLA Nathan Cooper said although he did not attend the rally, it “sounds like people didn’t do that (wear masks or social distance) and that is unfortunate.”
Didsbury RCMP officers did not issue any tickets during or following the Jan. 30 rally at Reimer Plaza, says Staff Sgt. Chad Fournier.
Asked if tickets may still be issued, he said, “Not at this time.”
He declined to provide any further comment.
Ethan Gorner, the Town of Didsbury's chief administrative officer, was asked if the town issued any tickets during the rally. He provided the following comments: “No, we didn’t. A few principles to consider from our perspective. One, we’re down to just our one bylaw officer, who isn’t authorized to write such tickets. So we don’t currently have capacity for such enforcement.
“Two, we don’t get involved in political events/rallies due to the constitutional issues, and politics, and rights to protest and ‘rally’ at play and we therefore leave these to the RCMP.
“Three, these are provincial orders and their enforcement is therefore the responsibility of the province. If anyone is concerned about any behaviour they can contact AHS (Alberta Health Services) via the complaints website or the RCMP.”
During the rally, event emcee and Didsbury developer James Carpenter called on any audience member receiving a ticket not to pay it.
“Do not argue with the peace officer,” said Carpenter. “Respect them. They are just doing their job that they are being forced to do. Take the ticket but I would ask you not to pay it.
"You can go to these folks (Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom). They will represent you for free and fight the ticket for you. If you are a business person, you can go to Rebel News and they also have a legal team that will fight this ticket. I would encourage you all, if you are concerned about people getting tickets, you can go to both these organizations and you can make a small donation to help pay for the legal teams that are working pretty much 24 hours a day.”