It’s fitting that in the year of oddities that has been 2020, some unusual locales have emerged as the battlegrounds for the lockdown culture wars. If politics makes strange bedfellows, so do anti-lockdown protests, bringing together the rough-around-the-edges owner of an Etobicoke barbeque joint and the button-down pastor of a conservative church in Aylmer, Ontario.
Both raised the ire of the authorities for simply wanting to go about their lives as usual. And both are fighting back.
Aylmer’s Church of God has been involved with law enforcement since back in April, when local police started staking out the church’s drive-in services – which at the time were novel. Police eventually backed off and the province confirmed drive-in services are allowed. But in recent weeks, things have escalated once again with Southwestern Public Health, the local health unit, sending a notice asking the church to “voluntarily” suspend in-person services – which comply with the Ontario government’s regulations – to curb COVID-19, which has not yet been afflicted a single one of the church’s congregants.
London police visited Church of God pastor Henry Hildebrandt’s Aylmer home Thursday to serve him with a court summons for attending a protest in London that week. It’s not clear how many, if any, others at the protest were ticketed, though it’s curious given lawmakers had no issue with the 10,000 people who came out to London’s Black Lives Matter protest earlier this year.
And then there’s Adam Skelly, owner of Adamson Barbecue, whose parking lot has experienced a fair bit of escalating excitement over the last week as countless law enforcement officers warned, ticketed, arrested, and eventually hauled away Skelly for the supposed crime of serving ribs.
There’s no denying Skelly was poking the bear. He opened his doors on the day Premier Doug Ford once again shut down Toronto restaurants for dine-in services. While he could have kept up a brisk take-out or delivery pace, I’m sympathetic nine months into this for business owners who have little patience for being shut down again when they barely survived the first closure.
What made the Skelly case so egregious was the government’s desire to make an example of him, which flies in the face of the “we’re all in this together” shtick they’ve been selling us since March.
According to the City of Toronto:
“The City is also investigating this business for compliance with business licensing, zoning, public health, Ontario Business Code and the Ontario Fire Code requirements.”
Don’t be surprised if Skelly gets a corporate and personal audit from the Canada Revenue Agency at tax time and gets randomly selected for additional screening next time he wants to take a flight somewhere.
The Skelly case shows the particular sociopathy in state overreach; when they want to get you, they’re going to get you on everything. It reminds me of the old yarns about Al Capone going down for tax fraud. Even if Skelly manages to fight his charges on constitutional grounds they’ll hammer him for a dead battery in a smoke detector or something like that.
Skelly and Hildebrandt are not the only ones to be charged in what increasingly looks like a coordinated sweep this week. Member of provincial parliament Randy Hillier was also ticketed for protesting in violation of Ontario law. This charge stings a fair bit because “Opposition politician charged” is a headline that typically comes from Russia or Belarus – not Ontario. Yet a politician has found himself hauled into the justice system for dissenting with government policy.
And we’re still supposed to buy that this is for our own protection.
With news this week that Canadians might not be getting vaccines until September rather than early 2021, the importance of finding a sustainable path forward is even greater.
Business and individuals alike can’t just sit in a locked down holding pattern for another 10 months, and anyone who says they can is delusional or deceitful. I’m sympathetic to politicians who want to encourage calm, but that doesn’t come from dozens of police officers locking a man out of his rib joint, nor does it come from police taking a road trip to charge small-town pastors.
Even if one wants to accuse these anti-lockdown advocates of being reckless – which I don’t see in these particular examples – it’s undeniable that no one will trust the system when they see what looks like an enforcement agenda usurp any inkling of a public health narrative.
Photo Credit: CBC News
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