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Sask. doubles convictions of COVID-19 violations, but majority of tickets remain unresolved

·2 min read
Sask. doubles convictions of COVID-19 violations, but majority of tickets remain unresolved
A large crowd attended a maskless children's festival at a downtown Saskatoon park in April 2021 in violation of public health laws which limit outdoor gatherings to 10 people.  (CBC - image credit)
A large crowd attended a maskless children's festival at a downtown Saskatoon park in April 2021 in violation of public health laws which limit outdoor gatherings to 10 people. (CBC - image credit)

In the month of May, Saskatchewan more than doubled the number of convictions it has secured for violating COVID-19 public health restrictions.

But more than 70 per cent of such tickets in the province still remain unresolved.

The rate once again highlights an issue that has developed through the past 15 months: the lag between issuing tickets for violating health orders, and the reality of processing and resolving them.

Saskatchewan's Ministry of Justice said at least part of that blame is due to the pandemic, which has resulted in delays throughout the provincial court system.

"The Ministry of Justice and Attorney General continues to work with the courts and other justice system partners to ensure time to trial is as short as possible," a spokesperson for the ministry told CBC News and Radio Canada earlier this month.

Result of Public Health Act violations in Saskatchewan

As of May 31, the most recent date that figures are available for, Saskatchewan has laid a total of 213 charges of violating the province's Public Health Act.

That means 58 new tickets have been handed out since the end of April.

Although there have now been 35 convictions — more than doubling the 17 reported at the end April — the vast majority of tickets remain unresolved.

There are 155 tickets that are classified as pending, meaning they are waiting to be heard by a court or for a resolution to be reached.

Steeper fines in effect

The data from May also provides a glimpse of the first month since Saskatchewan amended the Emergency Planning Act to increase fines for violating COVID-19 regulations.

People who violate the rules under the Public Health Act or the Emergency Planning Act can still face a maximum ticket of $2,000 while Corporations can be ticketed a maximum of $10,000. Each ticket may also include a 40 per cent victim surcharge.

Courts can decide the fine amount for violating the Emergency Planning Act — up to $75,000 for individuals or $100,000 for business — or the Public Health Act — $7,500 for individuals or $100,00 — depending on which act the charges were laid under.

Once again, each fine can also include a 40 per cent victim surcharge.

CBC
CBC

Only seven charges have had fines fully collected, while one has been partially collected, resulting in a total of $18,172 gathered through fines.

The number of withdrawn, nullified or withdrawn charges also jumped in the latest data — with the figure increasing by eight since the previous month.

The province says jurisdiction is lost when specific circumstances outside of the accused's control means that a case cannot proceed as scheduled.

However, most times when a case cannot proceed the province's jurisdiction has not been lost, according to the ministry of justice.

The next batch of data, covering all of June, will be made available on July 7.

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