(photos of Josh Clausen and Cobourg Police Constable Danielle McKeen on April 10, 2021)
A Cobourg man was given a hefty fine after being found guilty under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act in the Ontario Court of Justice on Wednesday, November 16, 2022 in Cobourg.
Josh Clausen was the defendant who represented himself during the trial, Paul Murray was the counsel for the Crown and Justice of the Peace, J. LeBlanc presided over the hearing.
Clause had pleaded not guilty to a single count under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act when his trial began on September 29, 2022.
During the trial that took less than a few hours to complete, Cobourg Police Constable Danielle McKeen said several police officers were in attendance at a weekly protest in front of Victoria Hall on April 10, 2021.
At the time there was a “stay at home order” in place and outdoor gatherings were limited to five people at the time. Masks or facial coverings were required when social distancing of six feet or more could not be accommodated.
McKeen testified at 12:25 p.m. there were approximately 20 people carrying anti-COVID signs and protesting outside Victoria Hall.
At the time, it was the policy of the Cobourg Police Service to educate first, and failing that, to enforce the law.
Several people including Clausen, Todd Noel and Graham Walker were recognized by police from previous anti-COVID protests in front of Victoria Hall.
On April 10, 2021, Clausen interacting with the majority of protestors and at no time wearing a mask or social distancing.
Another officer asked the crowd to disperse, but neither Clausen or other individuals did.
McKeen testified at that time, she determined that Clausen would not be abiding by the regulations and was issued a ticket – which he refused to accept.
When Clausen took the witness stand he said, “I protested. That was it. I stood on the street from 12-3 p.m. on Saturday with other people of the same mind as me. I didn’t vandalize or obstruct traffic. All I did was protest.”
Under cross examination, Clausen said that he knew gatherings of five or more people outdoors was not permitted and that Clausen knew he was required by law to wear a mask, or failing that, to social distance.
Clausen did not bring a constitutional challenge or challenge the legislation.
In his submissions Murray stated, “there is not a scintilla of a defence in relation to this matter and he should be found guilty.”
In his submissions Clausen repeated that he didn’t do anything wrong.
“I just stand by my conviction. All I did was protest, there’s nothing illegal around it. That’s all.”
LeBlanc in his decision said on March 17, 2020, the provincial government declared an emergency throughout the province in response to the pandemic. Because of that the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act was activated.
Under the act it states, “the purpose of making orders is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people of Ontario in times of declared emergencies in a manner that is subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“Contrary to Mr. Clausen’s belief, the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act is law. Requirements at the time of Mr. Clausen’s charge – to stay at home, to limit outdoor groups to no more than five people, and to require masks or facial covers, or failing that, to maintain social distancing of six feet or more – were valid law,” said LeBlanc.
Even though Clausen didn’t pursue a Charter argument LeBlanc stated several court cases across Canada defending the Emergency Measures and Protection Act.
In his decision, LeBlanc added that Clausen’s defence rests on his right to protest.
“To be clear, Mr. Clausen wasn’t prevented from protesting. He could have protested legally by remaining in a group of five or fewer people and by wearing a mask or facial covering such as a shield, or barring that, by staying at least six feet from his fellow protestors. He chose not to follow the rules and willingly admitted as much in Court.”
Clausen was fined $2,000 and given 180 days to pay.