Update: Bonnyville RCMP Sgt. Kim Hillier said in a written statement that at the end of the rally, a ticket was issued to the organizer, Benita Pederson, under S. 71(1) PHA for contravening the Public Health Order, a fine of $1200.
An “Enough is Enough” rally took over the gazebo at the Bonnyville Provincial Building on Sunday as the organizers and speakers from the crowd called for the end of public health restrictions and criticized the government’s approach of lockdowns.
Roughly over 100 people from the Lakeland, Edmonton, and other areas attended the outdoor rally without masks and held signs like “government is the virus” or “let kids be kids, mental health matters too.”
This is one of several rallies organized in northeast Alberta over the past few weeks by Benita Pedersen, who has held other protests in Barrhead, Westlock, and Athabasca in February.
The rallies are for people opposed to the “unreasonable restrictions the government is currently attempting to impose upon us,” said Pedersen.
At one time attendees, or “freedom fighters” as Pedersen called them, chanted “Alberta Strong.”
The two-hour get-together was peaceful and RCMP cars drove by the crowd on multiple occasions.
Pedersen said the virus is being used as a tool by governments to control people and make them fearful. She would end the lockdowns, not enforce mask mandates, and once that is done, look to demand a change of government and law so that “something like this can ever happen again.”
“I acknowledge the existence of COVID,” said Pedersen to Lakeland Connect.
“However, the severity of the virus has been grossly exaggerated. When you review the statistics, and you study the numbers, for example, these numbers here as of February 6 acknowledge that the majority of COVID deaths were of the age 80 plus and as of February 6, 1105 people had passed in Alberta,” she said.
“I acknowledge the existence of the virus. My concern is that the government has mismanaged the response to the virus. So knowing that those over 80 are susceptible, then those people should have been protected. The rest of us should go about business as usual when you review the numbers.”
Her decision to come to Bonnyville was urged on by Marcel Vachon who met at the Legislature grounds on Feb. 20 at a similar rally called “Walk for Freedom.”
Born in Bonnyville, he said it would be a good idea to come to town to “wake people up.”
“I’ve been reading a bunch of information from different sources and doing investigations of the numbers that are provided by the Alberta government. And there’s no reason why this should ever have happened,” said Vachon.
“I just don’t believe the information they’re giving us. They’re playing with the numbers, playing with our fears, and just trying to keep us locked down. That’s it.”
Pedersen railed against the mainstream media, federal, provincial, and municipal governments, and called for people to be united and run for political office, saying she was going to be running in the next federal election in her riding Peace River-Westlock.
She told the story of the owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe who defied public health orders, Natalie Klein (niece of former premier Ralph Klein) who opened her hair salon against the rules, and Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church, who is currently at the Edmonton Remand Centre after continuing to open his church at full capacity and not follow restrictions.
In Bonnyville, two restaurants had opened in late January despite public health measures at the time, and received support from local mayors and reeve.
Pederson hinted at further rallies in Bonnyville in the future as well as other initiatives like letter writing and calls to local government representatives.
As of Sunday night, there are 24 active cases of the virus within the M.D. of Bonnyville, according to Alberta Health, and eleven COVID-19 related deaths.