A York region man who has consistently rallied against health measures meant to keep people safe during the COVID-19 pandemic broke his federally-imposed travel quarantine this weekend to speak at an anti-lockdown rally in downtown Toronto.
Social media posts show that Chris Saccoccia, who has also identified himself as “Chris Sky” both in interviews and online, spoke at an anti-lockdown rally in Ireland on Sept. 12.
The 37-year-old then spoke to a crowd at an anti-mask/anti-lockdown rally in downtown Toronto last Saturday. A post on Saccoccia’s Facebook page indicated he landed back in Canada on Sept. 20.
Saturday’s protest, which Saccoccia promoted heavily on his social media accounts, came as COVID-19 cases continued to surge in Ontario. The province saw a single-day record of 700 new cases Monday, something Premier Doug Ford called “deeply concerning.”
Saccoccia did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CBC News.
The federal government has mandated that anyone travelling to Canada from outside the country must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, as well as provide contact information to authorities and monitor themselves for symptoms.
“Those in violation may face transfer to a quarantine facility as well as fines and/or imprisonment,” according to the government’s website.
Toronto police spokesperson Connie Osborne told CBC News that Saccoccia was issued a ticket for $1,000 under the Quarantine Act on Saturday — but in the end, he was still able to speak at the protest at Yonge and Dundas Square in downtown Toronto.
Osborne said that failing to comply with the act can result in a range of penalties, from fines to jail time. The maximum penalties include a fine of up to $750,000 and/or six months imprisonment, she said.
Video shows police speaking with Saccoccia
Saccoccia’s own Facebook posts provide a glimpse into his dealings with Toronto police.
In a post dated Sept. 25, Saccoccia posted a video of himself speaking with a police officer. “They sent the police to my house to ‘check up on me.’ All they accomplished was another police service member supporting our cause! United non compliance!” he wrote alongside the video.
Then on Sept. 26, the day of the anti-lockdown protest in downtown Toronto, Saccoccia wrote that police were “waiting for me to break my quarantine.
“They wanted everybody to see me ‘get a fine’ in reality they intentionally mis-spelled my first and last name on the ticket to make sure I wont fight it in court [because] I would win,” he wrote.
Another video posted on his Facebook page from Sept. 27 shows Saccoccia speaking with three Toronto police officers at Yonge-Dundas Square.
In it, one officer asks Saccoccia if he is supposed to be under quarantine right now. Saccoccia responds that he isn’t, and the officer responds that he has information that indicates he is supposed to be.
“You need to be at your residence,” the officer says in the video.
“Are you giving me a fine?” Saccoccia then asks.
“I’m not giving you a fine; I’m letting you know you need to be at your residence,” the officer responds.
Saccoccia then walks away, as the officer says, “I’m letting you know you’re not supposed to be here, okay?”
The City of Toronto and Mayor John Tory’s office deferred questions about the protest and Saccoccia’s involvement to Toronto police.
Osborne, the Toronto police spokesperson, said that no arrests were made at the protest, and no tickets were issued.
“Everyone has the lawful right to peacefully protest and officers were in attendance to ensure the safety of everyone,” she said in an email.
Tory tweeted about the protest on Saturday.
“People are always free to protest in a democracy but the people organizing these protests are trying to spread ridiculous and inaccurate information that, if believed, puts people’s lives at risk,” he wrote. “I trust our public health officials.
“And I trust the people of Toronto will make the right choice between advice offered by our best medical experts as opposed to baseless propaganda put forward by an eccentric collection of protesters.”
And I trust the people of Toronto will make the right choice between advice offered by our best medical experts as opposed to baseless propaganda put forward by an eccentric collection of protesters.
Saccoccia has consistently shown contempt for public health measures over the last several months, and rallied people to not follow them. His social media posts are rife with conspiracy theories and misinformation.
He helped organize a protest against mandatory mask wearing on the TTC back in July, as well as weekly demonstrations against COVID-19 restrictions outside Queen’s Park.
Saccoccia also helped distribute “exemption cards” in an attempt to get around emergency bylaws Toronto has enacted requiring face coverings in indoor public spaces.
He has also hosted outdoor parties at Cherry Beach that flout physical distancing rules. Toronto police said its professional standards unit was investigating after a police-branded Instagram account posted a photo of two cops with Saccoccia in August. Osborne said Monday that investigation is ongoing.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) told CBC News earlier this month that from March 25 to Sept. 3, a total of 42 contravention tickets and one summons have been reported to PHAC as being issued by police forces across the country.
“There have not been any arrests reported to PHAC stemming from a PHAC request for a physical verification check,” the agency said in an email. Two fines of $275, five fines of $500, and 35 fines of $1,000 have been reported.
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