People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier's much-hyped anti-lockdown tour was stopped in its tracks after Mounties took him into custody Friday.
The former Conservative party leadership candidate was arrested after his speech near St. Pierre-Jolys, the second stop on his "Mad Max Manitoba Tour" in the southern part of the province.
Bernier, who arrived in Winnipeg Thursday evening, had planned to preach against COVID-19 restrictions at 10 stops, including Winnipeg, Steinbach and Winkler, from Friday to Sunday, but was arrested after a speech near the town 50 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg.
Police asked him to get out of his vehicle, informed him he was being arrested under provincial health orders, handcuffed him and asked him if he had any weapons.
"No weapon, only my words… only my philosophy, only what I believe in," Bernier replied.
An RCMP spokesperson said he was taken into custody "to prevent the continuation of an offence" and for assembling at an outdoor public place and failing to self-isolate as mandated under public health guidelines.
"Mr. Bernier knew of the health orders and has already received a ticket," the spokesperson said in an email. "The continuation of the offence of violating the current public health orders in Manitoba has resulted in his arrest."
“Mr. Bernier knew of the health orders and has already received a ticket. The continuation of the offence of violating the current public health orders in Manitoba has resulted in his arrest.” — RCMP spokesperson via email
Bernier received the ticket during his first stop in Niverville, 40 kilometres south of Winnipeg. The spokesperson said Bernier will have to appear before a court, but did not clarify if he would be released in time to continue his tour.
In a statement, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which often pursues social conservative and right-wing cases, said it would be representing Bernier in court.
"The arrest and detention of Mr. Bernier for supposed 'health offences' is an exclamation point on the continued outrageous oppression of Manitobans by the Pallister government," president John Carpay said in a statement. "Few, if any, other places on the planet are still locked down as tyrannically as Manitoba."
Friday evening, the Justice Centre announced its lawyers had secured the release of Bernier after a bail hearing before a justice of the peace.
Bernier’s twitter account shared video of the arrest.
Our Leader Maxime Bernier was wrongfully arrested this afternoon by the RCMP in St-Pierre-Jolys, Man., for attending rallies with supporters.— Maxime Bernier (@MaximeBernier) June 11, 2021
-PPC Team pic.twitter.com/sbOpu6RORn
Bernier remained in custody late Friday afternoon, said Justice Centre lawyer Jay Cameron in an email to the Free Press.
"I have no details yet as to when the bail hearing will occur," he said. "It will be within 24 hours of his arrest, as per the Criminal Code of Canada, however."
A provincial spokesperson said they wouldn’t be able to clarify if there are plans to monitor rallies this weekend, but issued a warning to those who might attend them.
"We continue to take action against those who violate public health orders and remind Manitobans that enforcement officials will be out in full force this weekend," she said.
Bernier’s first stop in Niverville drew around 50 people by the end of his speech, while his stop in St. Pierre drew less than 10 attendees.
The Steinbach Carillon reported that some supporters followed him and pointed out media in attendance. There were no counter-protesters, but Bernier was met with signage taped to benches that read "Go home Bernier" and "We follow public health orders."
While Bernier was in handcuffs, RCMP officers pulled out a medical mask and covered his mouth and nose with it.
— With files from Nicole Buffie
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.