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Central Alberta rodeo organizer knew it violated pandemic rules: Crown

No More Lockdowns Rodeo Rally held near Bowden during pandemic in May 2021
Closing arguments were heard in Red Deer’s Alberta Court of Justice on Wednesday for a no-lockdown rodeo organizer accused of violating a pandemic-related healthorder in May 2021. (Advocate file photo)

The organizer of a 2021 central Alberta anti-lockdown rodeo knew pandemic health restrictions did not allow large gatherings but went ahead anyway, a Crown prosecutor said in a Red Deer courtroom on Wednesday.

Prosecutor Peter Mackenzie said health authorities made it “very clear” in correspondence with rodeo organizer Ty Northcott prior to his upcoming event in May 2021 that it would break the rules in place at that time restricting large gatherings.

Despite that, the event proceeded and Ty Northcott and his company Northcott Rodeo Inc. should be found guilty of violating Alberta’s Public Health Act, said Mackenzie. Northcott’s wife, Gail Northcott, was initially charged as well but the Crown dropped those charges last October.

The May 1-2 No More Lockdowns Rodeo Rally on Northcott’s property just south of Bowden drew a crowd estimated at 1,300 by an RCMP officer. At the time, restrictions limited gatherings to 10 people or fewer.

“That is what was violated, sir,” Mackenzie told Justice Jim Hunter in Red Deer’s Alberta Court of Justice during closing submissions.

During the trial last December, an Olds RCMP officer testified he was sent to Northcott’s property because traffic was backing up on a nearby highway. While there, he spoke with Northcott about the traffic situation and told him he was violating a public health order. Northcott told the officer he was aware of the restrictions but was going ahead with his event, said Mackenzie.

Northcott and his wife, Gail Northcott, and their company was charged on May 7, 2021. Charges against Gail Northcott were dropped last October.

Defence lawyer Lawren Wowk argued that the “Crown’s evidentiary burden” had not been met and the charge should be dismissed.

While an RCMP officer spoke with Northcott at the property no evidence was presented that he had organized or even had attended the rodeo, said Wowk.

The officer testified that he saw horses and cattle but he did not go to the bleacher area or the ticket booth to determine a rodeo was happening.

“There is no evidence the rodeo was taking place. The Crown is asking the court to speculate,” said Wowk.

Mackenzie countered, saying the judge is “entitled to make reasonable inferences” based on the evidence.

It is clear there was a rodeo, Ty Northcott was in control and the event was in violation of a public health order, said Mackenzie.

Wowk insisted the officer’s testimony did not prove a rodeo was occurring.

“Just calling it a rodeo doesn’t make it a rodeo. He could have called it a pink elephant. That doesn’t mean there was a pink elephant sitting there.”

Justice Hunter said he needed time to review the submissions from the Crown and defence and will deliver his decision on July 24.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which bills itself as a public interest, non-partisan charity committed to defending Canadians’ freedoms and rights, issued a statement supporting the Northcotts.

“The right to rodeo alongside Alberta’s largest highway in protest against the harm of government lockdowns is protected by the Charter freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association,” said Justice Centre lawyer Marty Moore. “The continued legal defence of the Northcotts is part of the continued fight to protect Albertans’ fundamental freedoms.”

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Paul Cowley

About the Author: Paul Cowley

Paul grew up in Brampton, Ont. and began his journalism career in 1990 at the Alaska Highway News in Fort. St. John, B.C.
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