Mask-exempt artist at Sphinks Tattoo under surveillance by Alberta Health Services

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Sammi Newell owns Sphinks Tattoo Studio in Lacombe, Alberta. She runs a spotless shop, has years of experience and is extensively trained in infection and blood-borne disease control protocols. She has taken the latest COVID-19 industry-specific training required by the government to reopen her shop after she was forced to close in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Newell did what she was asked. She closed when the government told her to. She took the extra training. She played by the rules. She did everything right.

But Newell is now under ongoing surveillance from Alberta Health Services. Her shop hasn’t been associated with any coronavirus outbreaks.

In fact, the entire tattoo industry has not been associated with a single case in the entire province of Alberta. Newell hasn’t spread any other disease either. You could eat off the floor of her shop.

The problem is that Newell has some severe health issues that prevent her from wearing a mask. In fact, it’s dangerous for her to inhibit her breathing in any way. Because Newell is faced with these issues herself, she doesn’t press her clients when they explain to her they are mask exempt, too. She understands that not all diseases and disabilities are evident to a layperson on sight.

And besides, the Human Rights Act protects Newell and her clients from having to divulge private medical information to anyone, including the government.

However, that hasn’t stopped Alberta Health Services inspectors from repeatedly visiting Newell in her shop to collect evidence and demand that she mask up even though it’s dangerous to her health.

I went to Lacombe to speak with Newell about this ongoing government harassment and to offer some help.

If Newell gets a ticket for respecting human rights, Rebel News is going to put her in touch with a top criminal lawyer at no cost to her through our largest civil liberties effort to date,

If you are a small business owner like Newell and you are willing to defy the lockdown restrictions to open your business to customers again, please reach out to Rebel News at and let us tell your story.

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  • By David Menzies


Are you a small business who is still banned from opening in Canada, but plan to reopen your restaurant, store or gym anyway? Let us know, and we’ll report your breaking story. Simply fill out the form on this page with your details.


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