Kenney quiet on protesters after issuing COVID-19 ‘wake up call’ to South Asian community

EDMONTON — Alberta’s premier is not commenting on hundreds of protesters who gathered in defiance of COVID-19 rules Saturday.

This after Jason Kenney delivered a “wake up call” to Calgary’s South Asian community last week – in what the NDP said Sunday was “scapegoating” one group an ignoring the other.

“We see a very high level of spread of COVID-19 in the South Asian community. And I don’t say that to blame or target anyone,” Kenney said during a RedFM phone interview posted online Wednesday.

“We know that it’s a tradition to have big family gatherings at home and we think this is one of the reasons why we have seen a much higher level spread in the community than other parts of the population,” he told host Rishi Nagar, who said the high case numbers could be attributed to the fact many in the community work service jobs outside of their homes.

Kenney said he had friends in the South Asian community and referred to a “strong, strong sense of family and hospitality” as “beautiful” – but asked that provincial restrictions be respected.

“I’m calling your program with a wake up call. We must, must have people understand the new law is no social functions at home,” Kenney said.

Backlash on social media was swift. 

PREMIER MUM ON PROTESTERS

On Saturday, hundreds of Albertans gathered in Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer in defiance of a ban on outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people.

It appeared that no tickets were handed out during those gatherings – and Kenney did not tweet or provide a statement about the protests.

“Jason Kenney and the UCP did not condemn anti-mask rally in Calgary. They did not enforce 10 people gathering restriction enforceable with a $1,000 fine. And, now this premier has the audacity to scapegoat and give ‘wake up call’ to Northeast communities,” NDP MLA Irfan Sabir said in a Sunday evening tweet.

Last week, the premier said he was concerned about a “backlash” from rural Albertans if he made masking requirements province-wide.

A spokesperson for Kenney did not answer specific questions about this story Sunday night, but referred CTV News Edmonton to an earlier statement from Alberta Justice.

“Municipal law enforcement, like the Calgary Police Service, operate independently of the Minister of Justice,” said Blaise Boehmer, press secretary for Alberta Justice.

“The provincial government respects the operational enforcement decision-making of Calgary Police Service, while balancing the Charter right to free expression and assembly.”

A full list of COVID19 restrictions can be found online. 

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