'Dangerous stunt': N.B. public health officers will be at planned anti-mask gatherings
The New Brunswick government says it's ready to act in response to a widely shared social media post encouraging a gathering of maskless shoppers.
The post tells people to gather at Wal-Mart locations in Saint John, Moncton, and Fredericton at a specific time and enter each store as a large group, without wearing a mask.
The post goes on to encourage people to make a purchase while in the store, and if refused, abandon items at the cash register before walking out.
Premier Blaine Higgs says the province-wide requirement of wearing a mask inside public areas will be upheld.
"I assure you that our public safety officials will have monitored what this is scheduled to be, and will be present," says Higgs.
The maximum fine for violating a COVID-19 regulation in New Brunswick is $20,400.
A statement from the Department of Justice and Public Safety says peace officers will "address any violations they see."
"New Brunswickers do not need the risk created by a dangerous stunt like this, and essential retail workers certainly don't need to be put in this position," says the written statement. "Anyone tempted to be part of this organized violation of the law should stay away."
Wal-Mart Canada didn't provide comment.
Throughout the pandemic, front-line retail employees have been forced to bear the brunt of anger about COVID-19 decisions made by government.
"Retailers, restaurants, they're not making these rules up," says Jim Cormier of the Retail Council of Canada. "They're following the law. Our members will be prepared to the best extent possible to try and de-escalate those situations and hopefully they won't have to deal with it."
Cormier says anger is being directed to the wrong people, in the wrong location.
"It's not acceptable to use a retail space, to use a restaurant, to use a hospital, as a prop," he says.