A Niagara hairstylist says she lost her home and business after helping organize several lockdown protests at the height of the pandemic.
Alicia Hirter appeared in the Ontario Court of Justice in St. Catharines on Tuesday and was fined $2,000 after pleading guilty to provincial offense charges for failing to comply with the Reopening Act of Ontario and the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.
“While there is room for disagreement, there is also a community expectation in compliance with the orders and that is something that must be upheld,” Judge Fergus ODonnell told the St. Catharines resident.
“And, any form of challenging the government’s position in a gathering that endangers public health and safety… then that’s crossing the red line. This is something that needs to be clear. »
The court heard the 45-year-old barber operated Chrome Artistic Barbering in St. Catharines and was a member of No More Lockdowns Niagara, a group opposed to lockdowns and restrictions put in place to combat COVID-19.
On April 10, 2021, the court heard, Hirter and others staged a protest outside his living room that drew between 700 and 1,000 people.
Following the rally, Niagara Regional Police and Niagara Region By-laws officers issued provincial offenses summonses to 14 people, including Hirter, former West Lincoln Mayor David Bylsma, and a former Thorold councilman, Jim Handley.
Hirter helped organize a rally in the tourist center of Niagara Falls the following week.
About 500 people attended the event at the Oakes Garden Theater at the foot of Clifton Hill on April 17, including the leader of the right-wing People’s Party of Canada, Maxime Bernier.
“The vast majority of attendees were not wearing masks and were not adhering to social distancing guidelines,” Assistant Crown Attorney Sabrina Montefiore told the judge.
A number of anti-lockdown rallies were held across Niagara between April and June 2021.
Most happened before June 2, when Ontario was under a government-imposed stay-at-home order as a public safety measure.
In the days leading up to the Niagara Falls protest, public health and hospital officials were alarmed, fearing it could undermine efforts to protect residents from the coronavirus. Niagara Health President Lynn Guerriero said at the time that the protesters’ actions were in blatant disobedience of the law and were putting “other residents at risk and our hospital services at risk.”
Defense attorney Michael Simrod said his client had struggled financially since the pandemic and had lost both her home and her business.
“Quite frankly, that’s why she was there to protest the lockdowns,” he said. “She was trying to be a contributing citizen and had a difference of opinion.”
The defendant faced challenges, the judge conceded, but so did everyone else.
“There are thousands of different combinations of circumstances that have made the last two and a half years very, very difficult,” ODonnell said.
Police originally charged Hirter with the misdemeanor of public nuisance and endangering the life or safety of the public.
The criminal charge was dropped Tuesday after she pleaded guilty to provincial offences.