Opinion

Owner of a Small Alberta Café Challenges COVID Lockdown, Gets Overwhelming Support From Customers

While Canadian authorities continue to tighten coronavirus restrictions in most provinces, some small businesses are rebelling against the regulations and refusing to close down.

According to Chris Scott – the owner of the Whistle Stop Café in Mirror, Alberta, who erected a symbolic fence in front of the facility to protest against lockdown and kept the cafe open, establishments like his are being discriminated against, since only a tiny percentage of all COVID transmissions occur in restaurants.

Sputnik: You addressed fellow Albertans, and, perhaps, the authorities too, in a video, where you expressed disappointment and anger over COVID restrictions. Was there a lot of feedback after you posted that video online, and if so, what kind of responses are you getting?

Chris Scott: The responses were mixed. The majority – I think about 95 percent of the people who responded, there were positive messages of support. There was some anger, and the point of the video was to bring up the fact that in Canada right now, if we don’t obey the government, they put fences around our facilities and tell us we can’t access them. So, there is a lot of anger about that, and that was kind of the point of the video – to make people think and get them engaged, so that they understand what’s going on in Canada, so we can stop it before it gets worse.

Sputnik: You are one of the few people who dared to stand up against the system. In your video you said that you have an alternative of going back to your previous high-paying job at oil fields in another country, but you chose to protect your business, to serve food to fellow Canadians here at the café. Was there something that inspired you to continue this fight?

Chris Scott: My grandmother is from Russia, as their whole family. And my great-great-great grandfather – he was one of the men who burned the Tsar’s guns and wouldn’t fight in the war. He was marched for almost a year to Siberia where he spent some time doing hard labour. And eventually he left Russia and he moved to Canada. But my great-grandfather – he was another person who fought and risked his life for what he believed in and for the rights and freedoms that he deserved as a human being. So, this isn’t the first time that someone in my family has done something like this.

Sputnik: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney pointed at indoor socialising as being the primary reason for the recent rise in the number of COVID cases. These 5 percent of people who did not agree with your message – some of them would probably ask whether you are prepared to take responsibility if customers contract coronavirus in your establishment. The virus is still there, isn’t it, so, would you take such responsibility?

Chris Scott: I do believe that COVID exists, how serious it is, what it really is, and what it means to us is another story that I can’t comment on. As for taking responsibility for outbreaks – absolutely not. When my customers come in here, I try to make a point of talking to as many people as I can, and I ask them: “are you aware that you may get sick by being here?” And they say: “yes, I’m aware”. And I say: “are you willing to accept that risk?” And every single one of them says: “yes, it’s my body, and I choose where I go with it, what I do with it and what I can expose it to and that’s the risk that I take”. And I’ve asked people if they would blame me or hold me responsible if they got any kind of sickness at my facility, and every one of them says no, they wouldn’t blame me.

​I would never go somewhere even like a ski hill or a pool, or anything like that, where I’m taking a risk on my own accord, I’m making my own choice – I would never blame the operator of the facility if I got injured, or got sick as a result of my own choices. That’s the whole point of Canada: we’re supposed to be free to make our own choices, what to do with our bodies, and nobody’s going to tell me otherwise.

Whistle Stop Café
Chis Scott and the staff of the Whistle Stop

Sputnik: Do you require customers to wear masks and to follow social distancing rules?

Chris Scott: I don’t require either of those things. I do respect people who wear masks, I respect people who don’t wear masks. The other day couple of guys came in. They were wearing very-very dirty masks. I know that it’s bad for their health, so I went to my supplies and I got two brand new masks and I gave it to them. We have masks available here for those who wish to wear them, but at this point there are very few people that do. When I’m looking at people I completely ignore whether they are wearing a mask, and I acknowledge them as a human being.

Sputnik: This is not the first time Alberta small businesses have been going against government regulations , and it looks like restaurants are at the forefront of this rebellion nationwide. Do you feel that you and other restaurant owners will be able to make the authorities eventually reconsider lockdown rules?

Chris Scott: Well, first of all I want to say that the restrictions that we are fighting against – they are completely unfair and unfounded in the first place. We’re being discriminated against unfairly for no reason, like there is no data or evidence, no nothing. As a matter of fact, it was shown during the last few lockdowns that restaurants were responsible for 1 to 3 percent of all transmissions, which is extremely low. There are facilities that are allowed to remain open who are responsible for 30 to 40 percent of transmissions. 

Small businesses like mine, or any other restaurant, or gym, or salon – we make enough money to pay our bills every month, maybe we can take a paycheck, maybe we can’t. So to target businesses that are vulnerable to financial difficulties like that is completely unfair. Standing up against that is difficult, because we don’t have any money in the first place. Yet the government has infinite amount of resources at their disposal, which is our own money – that’s our money that we earned, that we gave to the government to use for us. They are using the money that we generate through our hard work to fight us and close our businesses down. So, fighting against the government is a very difficult task because they have way more resources than we do.

The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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