The Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO has apologized over the interaction of its senior public health inspector with the leader of the April 24 “freedom” rally in Maple Creek.
Scott W. Livingstone wrote an open letter to Mayor and Town Council, saying the incident ran counter to the severity of the fight against COVID-19 and efforts of public health staff to protect the province.
“While I am not at liberty to discuss details about our discussions on this matter with the employee involved, I can say that I am deeply sorry for what occurred, as it undermined the seriousness of the situation we face.
“It also did not reflect the commitment and efforts of our hard working public health staff that are making sacrifices every day to help keep Saskatchewan people safe.”
Bradford Giesbrecht was seen on video shaking hands with Chris Saccoccia, who goes by the name Chris Sky and is an outspoken protester against mandatory masks and lockdowns.
The handshake took place at the tail-end of the rally at Lions Park, which was attended by 60-80 people, many of whom were from Sky’s so-called “freedom convoy”, that has been on a cross-country tour. Nobody was masked, apart from a counter-protester, who held a placard with the message: “Wear masks, stay safe.”
Under Saskatchewan’s public health orders, outdoor gatherings of a maximum of 10 people are allowed.
On the video, Giesbrecht is heard encouraging Sky to check out Maple Creek restaurants and a tattoo business.
“Awesome place, make sure you spend some time,” he said.
Sky’s video diary of the rally also saw him offering Benjamin Gagnon, a Quebec man, a ride to Regina, the next stop on the tour.
Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe had called for Sky to stay out of the province, while Michelle McKenzie, the Mayor of Maple Creek, had advised people against attending the rally.
Their comments follow an Easter weekend party near Maple Creek that has led to more than 40 COVID-19 cases, which are linked to a variant.
In his April 30 letter, Livingstone does not name the public health inspector, nor does he go into details about the incident.
Instead, he wrote: “I am writing in response to the actions taken by our Public Health Inspector at a rally in Maple Creek last week hosted by a group opposed to the public health measures in place to fight COVID-19.”
The letter continued: “These so called ‘Freedom’ rallies and anti-masking events promote conspiracy theories and undermine the efforts of Saskatchewan residents to keep their friends and family safe. In addition, they spread lies that our health care workers at the front line are somehow faking or making up the loss of life and trauma occurring as a result of COVID-19. This also undercuts the morale of our health care workers and creates significant risk, as it downplays the dangers of a virus that causes severe illness and death.
“I want to thank the people of Maple Creek for their leadership on this matter and for coming together to help us fight COVID-19. I am hopeful this incident does not detract from a long history of health system leaders and community leaders working together in your area of the province to promote the health and safety of the residents we serve.