After nearly three years, teenager William Vogelsang — who was facing a notorious $880 COVID-related public health charge for the crime of playing basketball outside alone — has had his fine dropped.
A press release from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), which represented Vogelsang at no cost to him, reads:
On April 15, 2020, Vogelsang, who was 17 at the time, went to a local park to get some fresh air and play basketball by himself. Two Ottawa by-law enforcement officers approached and informed him that the park was closed except for walk throughs. William told the officers that he believed that playing basketball as a group was banned, but that he could play by himself. He then told the officers that he would leave voluntarily.
Despite verbally identifying himself, Vogelsang did not have physical identification on him and was detained by bylaw officers for approximately 20 minutes as a result.
“He was not read his rights or permitted to speak to a lawyer,” the JCCF release states further.
“Our client is thrilled with the outcome and excited to move on with his life,” said Chris Fleury, Vogelsang's legal counsel. “While we would have preferred that William not be charged in the first place, this is the best possible outcome for him.”
Vogelsang was being charged under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, a piece of legislation imposed by Premier Doug Ford's Progressive Conservative government to “stop the spread” of COVID-19.
The unprecedented legislation saw the closure of public spaces, including parks and playgrounds, for gatherings. Costco, Walmart, and other big box stores remained open while small businesses were also forced to close.
The unscientific sanctions were imposed harshly on the public with no evidence to determine the existence of outdoor viral spread, while ventilation was always a cornerstone of dissipating pathogens.
Outside in the fresh air is the most effective ventilation system and was always the safest place to be.