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Manitoba pastor who openly violated COVID-19 restrictions arrested on warrant

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WINNIPEG — A Manitoba pastor who was openly violating COVID-19 public health orders has been arrested.

RCMP said officers arrested Tobias Tissen on an outstanding warrant for contravening public health orders during a traffic stop in Steinbach, 60 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg, on Monday.

Tissen is a pastor at the Church of God Restoration in the Rural Municipality of Hanover.

He has spoken at anti-restriction protests and held church services in defiance of public health orders put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“This arrest is an egregious violation of his constitutional rights. Canada is on a dangerous path,” the Church of God Restoration said in an emailed statement.

A video of the arrest was posted on a social media account under Tissen’s name. In it, Tissen is asked to step out of his car due to the outstanding warrant. In the video, a couple bystanders tell Tissen to be strong.

Tissen and his church have been fined numerous times for violating the restrictions. The pastor posted on social media in May that he was told an arrest warrant had been issued for him.

In a video posted on Rebel News last week, Tissen said Manitoba police were not eager to arrest him.

“This whole court system makes me laugh because it’s turning out to be more and more of a joke,” he said in the video.

Pastor Henry Hildebrandt, who is with the Church of God Restoration in Aylmer, Ont., posted a video on social media in response to Tissen’s arrest saying it was a “shame on Canada.”

He sent a message to police adding, “today it’s the pastors, tomorrow it’s you.”

Tissen is also part of a court challenge by seven Manitoba churches fighting the province’s public health restrictions.

Throughout the pandemic, there have been times when Manitoba’s health orders restricted worship services. A significant surge of infections in the second wave clogged hospitals and prompted all in-person and drive-in services to be banned.

Restrictions have been loosened significantly in Manitoba since the spring, as cases of COVID-19 dropped and there was less pressure on the health-care system.

Currently, places of worship have to choose between requiring people to be vaccinated or restricting in-person attendance to 33 per cent capacity or 25 people — whichever is less.

The seven churches, represented by the Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, argued in court in May that the restrictions were unjustified violations of charter-protected freedoms.

“We have no authority scripturally based and based on Christian convictions to limit anyone from coming to hear the word of God,” Tissen told court at the time.

He said it was “God’s jurisdiction.”

The decision over the constitutionality of public health orders is expected later this week.

There have been attempts by churches across the country to quash COVID-19 restrictions on religious gatherings. Controversial Alberta pastor Artur Pawlowski has also been arrested more than once for breaking rules.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2021.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

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Economy

Luxury goods tax on super-rich could hit electric vehicles: expert

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By Marie Woolf in Ottawa

A new tax on yachts, luxury cars and private aircraft designed to hit the super-rich could also cover vehicles meant to help the environment, a tax expert warns.

The luxury goods tax, which will come into force on Sept. 1, will cover cars and SUVs, as well as private planes and helicopters, worth more than $100,000.

The federal tax will also cover yachts and boats — including motorboats — worth more than $250,000.

But senior tax lawyer Héléna Gagné says the new tax could also hit some electric and hybrid vehicles, including Tesla and BMW models, which cost more than $100,000.

The federal government has been encouraging Canadians to invest in clean technology and zero-emission vehicles, which can carry a higher price tag than cars that run on fossil fuels.

Gagné said the thresholds for the tax could also affect people who would not be regarded as wealthy, but have saved up to buy a private plane for a hobby.

“It seems to be assumed that it is only the wealthiest who will be impacted by the luxury tax but it is not necessarily the case,” said Gagné, a partner at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP. “It can also impact indirectly taxpayers who may not consider themselves as being among the wealthiest but who may decide to purchase an electric vehicle with a retail sales price that happens to be over the $100,000 threshold.”

Adrienne Vaupshas, a spokeswoman for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, said the measures, originally proposed in the 2021 budget, are not designed to hit the middle class.

She said the threshold for the tax for boats was deliberately set at $250,000 so it would cover superyachts and not middle-class families buying boats.

Vaupshas said it was “only right and fair that the very wealthiest are asked to pay their fair share.”

“The government was re-elected on a platform that included a commitment to bring forward a luxury tax on yachts, private jets, and luxury cars and implementing this measure is a priority,” she said.

The tax was originally proposed in the 2021 budget. It will cover luxury cars, planes, and boats bought for personal use and leisure. Commercial vehicles, including small planes selling seats, and emergency vehicles are among the classes of vehicle exempt from the new tax.

The tax amounts to either 10 per cent of the taxable amount of the item or 20 per cent of the amount over the price threshold — whichever is less.

The NDP has been putting pressure on the federal government to do more to tax the super-rich. Measures to increase taxes on the wealthiest people in Canada, however, were not included in the Liberal-NDP confidence and supply pact.

NDP critic for tax fairness and inequality, Niki Ashton, said at a news conference last month that she wants the federal government to close loopholes she says are being used by the super-rich and corporations to avoid paying billions in taxes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2022.

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International

Ex-police officer gets 7-plus years in prison in Jan. 6 case

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By Michael Kunzelman in Washington

WASHINGTON (AP) — An off-duty Virginia police officer who stormed the U.S. Capitol with a fellow officer was sentenced Thursday to more than seven years in prison, matching the longest prison sentence so far among hundreds of Capitol riot cases.

Former Rocky Mount Police Sgt. Thomas Robertson didn’t speak in court before U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper sentenced him to seven years and three months in prison. Cooper also sentenced Robertson to three years of supervised release after his prison term.

Federal prosecutors had recommended an eight-year prison sentence for Robertson. The sentence he got equals that of Guy Reffitt, a Texas man who attacked the Capitol while armed with a holstered handgun.

Robertson gets credit for the 13 months he has already been jailed.

In April, a jury convicted Robertson of attacking the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to obstruct Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral victory. Jurors found him guilty of all six counts in his indictment, including charges that he interfered with police officers at the Capitol and that he entered a restricted area with a dangerous weapon, a large wooden stick.

Robertson traveled to Washington on the morning of Jan. 6 with another off-duty Rocky Mount police officer, Jacob Fracker, and a third man, a neighbor who wasn’t charged in the case.

Fracker was scheduled to be tried alongside Robertson before he pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in March and agreed to cooperate with federal authorities. Cooper is scheduled to sentence Fracker next Tuesday.

Prosecutors have asked Cooper to spare Fracker from a prison term and sentence him to six months of probation along with a period of home detention or “community confinement.” They said Fracker’s “fulsome” cooperation and trial testimony was crucial in securing convictions against Robertson.

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