A public health inspector testified in Red Deer court on Tuesday that a number of public complaints had been received in the spring of 2021 about an upcoming anti-lockdown rodeo.
Nicole McIntyre, an Alberta Health Services (AHS) public health inspector based out of Olds at the time, said complaints about the planned May 1-2 No More Lockdowns Rodeo Rally came through a public online reporting system that is closely monitored. Some had seen ads for the event on Facebook.
AHS had been emailed a letter on March 29 informing Ty Northcott that the rodeo rally he was organizing could not happen under the public health orders then in place. McIntyre said she passed on the same information in a phone call to Northcott.
Public health inspectors, who had also been in contact with the RCMP prior to the rally, did not attend because Red Deer County bylaw officers planned to be there.
Ty and Gail Northcott and their company Northcott Rodeo Inc. were named in a summons on May 10, 2021 for violating the Public Health Act for holding their No More Lockdowns Rodeo Rally on private land near Bowden on May 1-2 in contravention of health restrictions in place at the time prohibiting large public gatherings.
Crown prosecutor Peter Mackenzie dropped the charge against Gail Northcott during the last court appearance in October.
Olds RCMP Const. Kurtis Milbrandt testified on Tuesday that he and his partner were sent to the Northcotts’ property where the rodeo was being held after police got complaints that traffic was backing up on a nearby highway as people tried to get into the site.
Milbrandt estimated there were around 1,300 people at the event when he was there.
He spoke with Ty Northcott at the entrance to his property to talk about the traffic issues. He warned him he could be liable if a collision occurred because of the situation and also told him he was violating a public health order and would likely be hearing from AHS.
Milbrandt said he was sent to the Northcott property a few days after the rally to serve him with a summons.
Mackenzie closed the Crown’s case after hearing from the two witnesses Tuesday.
Defence lawyer Stephen Whitehead asked the police officer only a question or two and Northcott did not take the stand in his defence.
The lawyers opted to make their closing submissions to Judge Jim Hunter at a later date.
Hanging over the case, and most of the others involving pandemic-related charges for disobeying public health orders, is an ongoing constitutional challenge to the orders.
That case involves Calgary gym owner Rebecca Marie Ingram, Heights Baptist Church, Northside Baptist Church, Erin Blacklaws and Torry Tanner, who are challenging the constitutionality of pandemic public health orders. A decision is expected in March.
They allege Alberta’s public health orders are contrary to the Alberta Bill of Rights, unjustifiably limit Charter-protected rights and are unlawful.
The Justice Centre of Constitutional Freedoms is involved in that case and has provided legal counsel for the Northcotts. The centre bills itself as a “federally registered Canadian charity which fights for the Constitutional Freedoms of all Canadians by funding legal representation and by educating Canadians about the free society.”
“The right to gather peacefully in protest is expressly protected by the Charter, and the Northcotts’ protest rodeo rally engages that protection,” says Justice Centre Marty Moore in a Tuesday statement. “The right to gather outdoors to protest government violations of Canadians’ rights must be defended against continued prosecution by the Crown.”