'Exercise our right': Central Alberta rodeo to proceed against COVID-19 restrictions
BOWDEN, ALTA. -- A rodeo scheduled for this weekend in defiance of provincial health regulations is still a go according to organizers.
But the “No More Lockdown Rodeo Rally” is facing stiff headwinds.
First, the Bowden Agricultural Society revoked it’s permit for the group to use the town’s rodeo grounds. That move was made following discussions with Alberta Health Services.
“I think it would have been good for the businesses here in town,” said Bowden mayor Robb Stuart. “I know the town and the AG society has done everything they possibly can to ensure we weren’t infringing on anybody’s rights to still follow like we have to deal with under the Alberta Health Services’ protocols.”
Secondly, a pair of rodeo cowboy associations distanced themselves from the event. The Foothills Cowboys Association and Wildrose Rodeo Association recently reversed course and withdrew their support of the event.
On the Northcott Rodeo Facebook page, organizers responded:
“Due to the circumstances of our previous agreed upon terms being dismissed by the associations we had been working with on our No More Lockdowns Rodeo “Rally” we have made the choice to instead partner with World of Rodeo Canada.”
They went on to lash out at the decision and at provincial authorities saying, “We will not stand by idly and watch as not only our businesses but also our Western heritage and more importantly, our basic human rights are ripped out of existence by the tyrannical beings of our current world.”
The weekend rodeo has been scaled back. It was originally set to run Friday through Sunday, but now is scheduled for only two days – Saturday and Sunday.
The event is set to become as much a political rally as a sporting event, listing guest speakers well known for their opposition to COVID-19 health restrictions, including Innisfail activist and mayoral candidate Glen Carritt.
“We’re in civil disobedience right now and if people don’t move forward with civil disobedience then the next step is not fun,” said Carritt. “We want to exercise our right our freedom to assemble.”
Events like rodeos and other public gatherings can be sanctioned by AHS through the granting of an exemption to public health rules.
Tom McMillan, assistant director of communications with Alberta Health, told CTV News the department does not release information about whether exemptions have been applied for, but did confirm that none has been granted in this instance.
Repeated calls and messages from CTV News to Ty Northcott, owner of Northcott Rodeo Inc., have gone unanswered.
In a joint statement, the groups said “the FCA\WRA cannot sanction the upcoming event ‘No More Lockdown Rodeo Rally’ going on to add “if AHS deems our groups in anyway as an organizer or sanctioning body, we chance losing our AGLC licence and not for profit status which means the end for the FCA\WRA.”