May 25th, 2024

Businessman feels COVID ticket was unfair to him

By Lethbridge Herald on October 6, 2021.

Delon Shurtz
Lethbridge Herald

A Lethbridge businessman who was ticketed under the Public Health Act following a rally in January opposing COVID restrictions, believes he was unjustly singled out by police.

Mike Hoffman also believes he and others had the right to participate in the rally, even though public gatherings at the time were prohibited by the Health Act.

“It goes against my Charter rights as a sovereign Canadian, a free Canadian,” Hoffman said during the conclusion of his trial Monday in Lethbridge provincial court.

Hoffman is expected to raise a Charter argument at a subsequent court hearing. However, that won’t be scheduled until after Judge Erin Olsen delivers her trial decision in November.

Hoffman was also ticketed by the city for holding a public event without a permit. He failed to show up for his bylaw trial on that matter, was convicted in absence, and fined $300. If he’s found guilty of contravening the Public Health Act, he will be required to pay $1,200.

The accused was one of about 45 people who attended the rally in front of City Hall Jan.12. 

Police also attended the rally, and video taped Hoffman and others as they addressed the crowd, nearly all of whom were not wearing masks and not social distancing.

Sgt. Mike Williamson of the Lethbridge Police Service testified during the trial that police used their discretion to ticket Hoffman and not others because Hoffman was an organizer and facilitator of the event. 

Hoffman, on the other hand, told court he was not the organizer of the event.

“It’s been alleged repeatedly that I’m the organizer of this event, your honour, and yet I didn’t see any evidence in the video that was presented to us today, or in any of the arguments that the Crown has offered at this time to present beyond a reasonable shadow of a doubt that I truly was the organizer,” Hoffman said.

Williamson testified, however, that he received information from the police service’s intelligence unit that Hoffman was an organizer, and when Hoffman was approached by a police officer the day before the event, he admitted he organized the rally and didn’t have a permit. Williamson also testified a Facebook page identified Hoffman as the organizer.

A video of the rally shown in court identified several people, including Hoffman, as they spoke to the crowd and rejected the province’s order to wear masks, avoid public gatherings and social distance.

During closing arguments, Crown Prosecutor Drew Gillespie said Hoffman was a direct participant and facilitator of the event and not only spoke at the rally, he cheered and clapped for other speakers as he mingled closely with participants while not wearing a mask, in direct contravention of the Public Health Act. Hoffman also encouraged others to contravene the public health order and break the law, Gillespie added.

Hoffman denied the accusations, and said there was no evidence presented in court, including the alleged Facebook post, that proved he organized the event or encouraged people to contravene the Act.

Follow @DShurtzHerald on Twitter

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