Former Smithers Town Council candidate Randy Bell was arrested, handcuffed and escorted out of the Bulkley Valley Credit Union on Friday afternoon for refusing to wear a mask inside, according to a video he posted on Facebook.
After being asked several times to put on a mask, and refusing to do so or to leave the credit union, RCMP were called.
In the video, posted on Bell’s Facebook page, you can hear RCMP asking repeatedly for Bell to put on his mask to continue his banking, at which time he continues to refuse.
He is then handcuffed and taken to the RCMP vehicle, where the officer and Bell can be heard having a lengthy discussion about the laws regarding the newly-announced mask mandate.
After determining that Bell would not be going back inside the credit union, the officer encourages him to “go home and educate himself on the law.”
The officer can be heard saying on the video that he (RCMP) had six months to issue a ticket, although, “if this is the last we hear of it, we can move on, but if we have to revisit this conversation, then the ticket will still be an option.”
Bell was released from police custody at the scene, but could be heard saying to his wife to “keep the video as it’s probably going to happen again.”
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a mandatory mask mandate Thursday (Nov. 17) for all public indoor spaces.
The Smithers RCMP confirmed they were called to a local financial institution for a report of a client refusing to leave the premises after he also refused to wear a non-medical mask or face covering contrary to the Public Health Order issued by Dr. Henry.
”Front line officers arrived and engaged the patron in conversation in an effort to gain compliance and cooperation with the mask mandate. Despite the efforts of the police officers, the man was detained and escorted from the business. He was eventually released without charge and directed to review the current Public Health Orders in place,” said Cpl Jesse O’Donaghey with BC RCMP Media Communication Services.
O’Donaghey added the RCMP’s focus remains on educating and encouraging members of the public who may not be following the safety measures set out by public health authorities. Enforcement is typically seen as a last resort, but one that can be used if the circumstances warrant.
“As in this case, police officers can use discretion when enforcing various statutes, and RCMP officers have the ability to use a measured approach when dealing with COVID-19 related situations. Bylaw officers and police officers have the ability to issue fines under the COVID-19 Related Measures Act (RMA). Public health measures and fines are set by provincial and local health authorities,” he said.
Bell declined an interview saying he did not trust The Interior News, but provided the following statement via text:
“This tyrannical NDP government is attacking our basic freedom and liberty. I do not have to wear a mask, this is not a safety issue. This is government control over our personal liberty, beliefs, and thoughts. I encourage everyone to just take your masks off and say no, we are not dangerous to one another. It’s a shame to see media being complicit in spreading lies and fear over masks and COVID.”
In the Oct. 17 municipal byelection, Bell came in third out of four candidates for councillor with 177 votes behind Mika Meyer with 531 and Colin Bateman with 443. He also unsucessfully ran for mayor in 2018 against now-Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach.