By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Two charges have been laid in connection with the April 26 Freedom Rally in Chatham.
Chatham-Kent Bylaw Enforcement Officer Travis Maxwell told The Chatham Voice the event is still under investigation and other charges may in the works.
“We’re still investigating,” Maxwell explained, adding names of those who have been ticketed have yet to be released.
The municipality currently has seven bylaw officers working Monday to Friday during office hours, responding to complaints.
COVID-19 issues are keeping bylaw officers “fairly busy,” Maxwell said.
After hours and on weekends, the Chatham-Kent Police Service takes on the task.
Municipal officials have stated publicly that they prefer taking an educational approach to deter people from breaking COVID-19 safety protocols, rather than issuing tickets.
The Freedom Rally held in Tecumseh Park saw about 300 people in attendance. A number of leaders spoke from the podium including ‘No More Lockdown’ leaders MPP Randy Hillier and outspoken Aylmer pastor Henry Hildebrandt.
Both have been charged in connection with similar rallies and religious gatherings in other jurisdictions.
According to the Ministry of Solicitor General, violating the Reopening Ontario Act can result in a minimum $750 fine for individuals, and a maximum penalty of $100,000, plus the possibility of prosecution or jail time.
The charges stemming from the gathering for the protest aren’t the only ones levied locally recently. For the second straight week, Chatham-Kent police were called to a church. This time, it was Old Colony Mennonite Church on Grove Mills Line in Dresden. A week ago, police charged someone at Old Colony Mennonite Church on Wheatley Road near Wheatley.
This past Sunday, when the officer arrived to the church near Dresden, he observed 56 cars in the parking lot, with additional cars arriving. Upon completion of the church service, approximately 73 people were observed leaving the church with no one wearing masks.
Last night, a member of the church, a 38-year-old Dresden man, was charged with failing to comply with a continued 7.0.2 order as per Ontario Regulation 364/20, of the Reopening Ontario Act, 2020, section 10(1).