Calgary Police chief says challenges facing public health tickets in court ‘frustrating’ after dozens withdrawn

CALGARY — Calgary’s chief of police says current enforcement measures for people who aren’t following public health measures aren’t working against repeat offenders who flout rules and regularly attend public protests.

Police Chief Mark Neufeld says the service is working with the province to try and overcome legal hurdles that have caused dozens of tickets to be thrown out or withdrawn by the Crown.

“Our partners at the province have asked us not to fill the courts with $100 mask bylaw tickets and to be more strategic in the enforcement, so we’ve done that,” Chief Neufeld told councillors on Monday.

He says court backlogs and “challenges” mean some tickets issued by Calgary Police have taken 16 weeks to be addressed. Some matters won’t head to court until 2022, Neufeld said, meaning it isn’t a deterrent to people who are currently attending protests and breaking rules under the Public Health Act (PHA).

“What we’ve seen is the issuance of tickets, whether it’s under the municipal bylaw or under public health orders, are actually welcomed. They actually want that,” he said.

Calgary police say about 76 per cent of the tickets issued under the PHA that have made it to court have been withdrawn or quashed by the Crown or the ticket control unit.

Across the province, 576 tickets were issued under the PHA between March 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021 — just 12 per cent have resulted in a conviction so far.

Calgary council is also set to debate a motion to increase the fine for people who don’t wear a face mask. Tickets are currently $100, but councillors will discuss next week whether to make the fines $500 for violators.

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