3 pm update: A statement from the Minister of Justice’s office has been added.
Premier Jason Kenney went on a radio show last Thursday to issue a “wake up call” to Calgary’s South Asian community.
Kenney joined RED FM 106.7’s Rishi Nagar on November 26 to note that Northeast Calgary, and the city’s South Asian communities, in particular, we’re seeing “very high levels of spread.”
“I don’t say that to blame or target anyone. The fact of the matter is this; one of the beautiful, wonderful things about my friends in the South Asian community is a strong, strong sense of family and hospitality,” said Kenney in the interview.
- See also
He said that he believes that large family gatherings could be part of the reason for the increased spread in these areas.
“I’m calling your program with a wake-up call,” said Kenney.
“We must have people understand the new law is no social functions at home, no indoor social functions, no family or friends visiting in at home who are not part of your immediate household, who do not sleep there at night.”
He also noted that police officers have been given the power to issue $1,000 fines to those found breaking the public health order.
“This is not a suggestion, this is not a recommendation, it is the law, it is a rule, and it is a public health necessity.”
An anti-mask protest was held just two days later on Saturday, November 28, which saw hundreds of maskless protesters marching through Calgary’s streets, defying the new restrictions.
The Calgary Police Service issued a release regarding the protests, stating that the Calgary Police Service would be “monitoring events to ensure everyone is safe and the event remains peaceful. As with all rallies, we are able to scale our response to ensure public safety.”
The release also noted that CPS’s main objective was to “ask for voluntary compliance and to educate the public on the restrictions.”
“With that said, participants in these events are being investigated. Our ticketing is strategic and will take into consideration a number of factors. Although citizens may not witness the summons at the time, that does not necessarily mean we are not exploring those options.”
NDP MLA for the northeast Calgary riding of Calgary-McCall called Kenney out on Twitter following the protests.
“Jason Kenney’s UCP did not condemn anti-mask rally in Calgary. They did not enforce 10 people gathering restriction enforceable with a $1,000 fine. And, now this premier has the audacity to scapegoat and give ‘wake-up call’ to Northeast communities.”
The Canadian Muslim Research Think Tank issued a release on Monday asking that Kenney apologize for “[shifting] blame onto the South Asian community in Northeast Calgary.”
“Jason Kenney singles out and blames the South Asian Community for the spread of COVID-19, instead of acknowledging they are in the service industry and work for all of us,” stated Dr. Mukarram Ali Zaidi, Canadian Muslim Research Think Tank Chairman, in the release.
He asks that the premier apologize to the community and admit “that he failed to protect Albertans by dismissing physicians and public health advice.”
The Office of the Premier referred Daily Hive to the Minister of Justice’s office for comment on the weekend’s protests.
Blaise Boehmer, Senior Press Secretary for the Minister of Justice, stated in an email to Daily Hive that “municipal law enforcement, like the Calgary Police Service, operate independently of the Minister of Justice. Elected officials do not direct specific, on-the-ground operational decisions of police officers. The provincial government respects the operational enforcement decision-making of Calgary Police Service, while balancing the Charter right to free expression and assembly.”