Calgary police and bylaw officers say they will be ramping up enforcement to deal with those “blatantly ignoring the laws” Chief Mark Neufeld said.
The City of Calgary updated their COVID-19 response Thursday, saying that with mounting cases, they will taker swifter enforcement action.
To date, three people have already been charged in relation to last weekend’s anti-mask rally. Three more are expected to be charged today, Chief Neufeld said.
“But the biggest challenge that we seem to be facing right now are those who are blatantly ignoring the laws,” he said.
“The issue is not that they’re unaware and require education. The issue is more of the case simply disagree.
“Those people will be charged accordingly.”
He said they respect citizens’ right to assemble and have their voices heard. Chief Neufeld said they attend all sorts of those kinds of rallies and demonstrations throughout the year to uphold those rights.
“But limits have been temporarily placed on those rights and freedoms in the interest of public safety and the health of our citizens,” he said.
The time to debate those rules is not on the weekends at Olympic Plaza, he said. Take it to a court of law where you can present evidence in front of a judge.
“We’re absolutely not looking to punish people who are simply looking to try to get through this pandemic,” Chief Neufeld said.
“This is about keeping all Calgarians safe by addressing disappointing and intentional acts of defiance that threaten our healthcare system.”
Calgary’s Chief Bylaw Officer Ryan Pleckaitis said they do anticipate further demonstrations. He believes they will be non-compliant with public health orders.
He added that they wrote two tickets from a recent city hall event and one yesterday.
New Year’s Eve and parking changes
In Thursday’s briefing, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said that the city will not be having any public events to ring in 2021.
“There will be no fireworks,” he said.
“Yeah, I know. It’s tough. We’ve lost so much in this year.”
The mayor said there’s still an opportunity to inject cheer into loved ones’ lives with a Christmas gift from locally-owned and operated retailers. (#shoplocalyyc)
“And, of course, not everyone’s done their Christmas shopping,” he said, joking that he doesn’t start until Dec. 23.
If you’re ordering in for New Year’s Eve celebrations, he encouraged people to avoid using third-party delivery apps. Phone them first to see how they’d prefer you pick up or have it delivered. Saves them money that goes to the app company.
To aid both of these, 15-minute grace-period parking in Park Plus zones is in effect. People can make the quick curbside pickups. Also, the rush-hour parking restrictions along 17 Avenue SW, 4 Street SW and 10 Street NW have all been eliminated to help improve travel to these retail areas.
Outdoor recreation is still open
The mayor still encouraged people to make sure they take in outdoor activities. Just do it safely, he said.
There’s toboggan hills, cross country tracks, snowshoeing, pathways and some outdoor skating rinks are available.
“Remember, social distancing can be tricky when you’re skating. Outdoor cohort gatherings are limited to 10,” he said.
“What that means is, while there may be more than 10 people on the ice at Olympic Plaza, there cannot be groups of more than 10.”
He also mentioned the city’s winter firepit program.
Calgarians appear to think that activity is lit. New Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Sue Henry said they’ve had more than 900 requests for the 16 outdoor community firepits (with firewood).
“Staff are processing requests as quickly as they can,” she said, noting that there are 37 other first-come, first served outdoor firepits around Calgary.
Henry added that they’re looking at adding more people to handle the requests. They’re also looking at adding more firepits for Calgarians to enjoy safely.
“This program is a great indicator of how important our public parks and amenities are to citizens, especially just during this year’s challenging environment,” she said.