The leader of the People’s Party of Canada is stopping throughout Interior BC this week despite requests from local health authorities to restrict non-essential travel, claiming his campaign against COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions is essential.
Maxime Bernier’s first appearance was in Penticton on Thursday afternoon, addressing a crowd of an estimated 70 people in Gyro Park, most of whom were maskless.
“I'm campaigning right now to fight for our freedoms and that's the most important right now.”
Bernier acknowledged that the virus can be dangerous for older populations but he said it’s time for the general population to get back their freedom and that there "shouldn't be a new normal."
“We must defend our freedoms against these authoritarian measures, against these tyranny cult governments. It is important to act now and yes, we are the minority right now,” Bernier said, adding that people should talk to family and friends about data related to COVID and the lack of deaths, without citing sources.
Interior Health warned Wednesday that the PPC leader would be violating public health orders by hosting gatherings, and going against public health recommendations by travelling throughout the region.
“I’ve read the guidelines and you can travel if you’re an essential service or things like that and I think as a leader of the people’s party, its essential for me to travel across the country and speak about real Canadian values,” Bernier stated when asked about his visiting plans.
He also contested what is legally allowed with provincial orders in relation to large gatherings.
“We are outside and we are respecting the regulation right now. As you know, the court decided that restriction on gathering and protesting is illegal in this country. People are respecting the order from the court.”
Attendees of the rally were not wearing masks or maintaining physical distancing in the outdoor space. Many came up to Bernier after his speech to shake hands and take photos.
“I think it’s for doing what we need to do in this country, to gain back our freedoms," Bernier said.
“These lockdowns are destroying lives right now and the virus is there, we know that but we know how to protect ourselves … They are destroying the economy, they are destroying lives.”
Before Bernier’s arrival at the rally, David Lindsay, who has been organizing anti-mask rallies across the Okanagan, spoke to the crowd.
Bernier has a slate of other appearances in the Interior lined up Friday, due to appear in Kelowna, Vernon, Salmon Arm and Kamloops.