With another anti-lockdown protest slated to take place this weekend in North Bay, the region’s top doctor is concerned about the impact on the community.

“We’ve seen this in the past and I think it’s unfortunate that it occurs,” said Dr. Jim Chirico, Medical Officer of Health. “Openly defying what’s in place to help keep everybody safe is putting everybody at risk. I feel that it’s very irresponsible when they’re not physically distancing and not using face coverings.”

The Northern Freedom Alliance is planning a gathering at the North Bay Waterfront on April 17 to “show support for freedom and ending the lockdowns,” according to a Facebook post. It’s the third such protest organized in the past month.

The prior two gatherings, on March 20 and April 3, had a police presence and three people have been charged with violations of the Reopening Ontario Act in relation to those gatherings.

“The North Bay Police Service respects the right of every Canadian to protest,” said North Bay Police Chief Scott Tod. “However, there is currently a Declaration of Emergency and provincial Stay-at-Home Order in effect. If we observe individuals deliberately violating the Reopening Ontario Act and putting the safety of others at risk, we will be required to do our job and enforce the law. That includes the possibility to laying charges.”

Dr. Chirico acknowledges people’s right to protest but urges it be done so safely.

“You can protest but adhere to the gathering limits, adhere to the rules and adhere to the public health measures to keep people safe,” he said. “I hope that they reconsider and I hope that they don’t put anybody at risk.”

The NBPS says a Declaration of Emergency and Stay-at-Home Order are in effect across Ontario and have been since April 8, 2021. “The Stay-at-Home Order means that individuals should only leave their home for necessities. According to the Provincial Government, indoor gatherings are not allowed and outdoor gathering are limited to 5 people,” the agency shares.

David Woolley, Corporate Communications Officer for the service, says “In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Provincial Government has put rules in place that require you to identify yourself to law enforcement if police believe you are not following the emergency rules. When asked to identify yourself, you must provide your: correct name, date of birth and address. If you refuse to identify yourself to a police officer, you can be charged with Obstructing Police.”