Formal complaint filed against Manitoba reeve for speaking at anti-mask rally

WINNIPEG — An official complaint has officially been filed against the reeve from the R.M. of La Broquerie after he spoke at an anti-mask rally in Steinbach, Man. last weekend.

Lewis Weiss, who was elected as Reeve for the council, was one of the speakers at the rally, which attracted hundreds of people to protest mandatory mask requirements in the province. He was handed a $1,296 ticket for violating public health orders after speaking at the rally.

During Wednesday’s council meeting, council read a letter from a resident of the R.M., calling Weiss’ actions “deplorable,” noting the high COVID-19 cases in Steinbach, and asked council to file a formal complaint against Weiss.

“The difference between an ordinary citizen’s opinion and a reeve’s opinion is that you are representing your constituents,” a portion of the letter reads. “An elected official speaks on behalf of the people that elected them. This weekend, you let those people down by defying public health restrictions and speaking at a protest on behalf of our municipality with no authority to do so.”

Before the rally, Weiss was warned in a letter from Rochelle Squires, Minister of Municipal Affairs that he could be fined for violating public health orders and the council could file a formal complaint.

Ivan Normandeau, the deputy reeve for the R.M., said a formal complaint against Weiss was filed with the province on Wednesday for violating the council’s code of conduct.

“As an elected official, you should respect all of the public health orders that are set out there, specifically the wearing of masks and not gathering with more than five people,” he said Thursday.

During the meeting, Coun. Paul Gauthier said the council has gotten multiple requests from community members since the rally asking for Weiss to resign.

“Will you do what the ratepayers are asking and resign as our reeve,” Gauthier asked.

“Over this, I would not, because it’s something I believe in,” Weiss replied. “I do not believe the government is being truthful with us, with their report. If you follow the science, this is just another virus and they’re trying to tell us we can hide from viruses behind masks.”

In Squires’ letter, she wrote Weiss could face a 90-day suspension from council or a $1,000 fine.

“The province will come up with a recommendation, and then we’ll deal with it at council when we get it back,” Normandeau said, noting it could return to council within 14 days.

Council also passed a resolution that stated the actions of Weiss at the rally did not reflect those of council, R.M. staff, and residents of the R.M., which Weiss voted in favour of.

“The reason why I am not opposed is because I did announce that I was not sent in by the ratepayers or La Broquerie,” Weiss said during the meeting.

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