The owner of a grocery store and gas station in Borden-Carleton has pleaded guilty to violating P.E.I.’s Public Health Act with regard to COVID-19 rules.
Both Chad Ceretti and his business, Ceretti’s Grocery and Hardware Ltd., were ticketed in late November, after customers complained that he and staff members were not wearing masks inside the building. The store was then given another ticket in January.
Ceretti initially pleaded not guilty to all three offences under the provincial legislation. On Tuesday, however, he changed his plea to guilty on two of them, with the third being stayed.
Ceretti will have to pay $6,000 in fines, and has two years to do so.
Chief Crown prosecutor John Diamond said public health enforcement officials had warned Ceretti last fall that mask rules had to be followed.
“There were senior citizens going in buying groceries, and they just didn’t feel comfortable,” Diamond told CBC News.
Nonetheless, Diamond said, the businessman and employees were still not masked when inspectors returned for a followup visit following the initial warning.
“There are all kinds of people that don’t believe masking is a necessity,” Diamond said. “And in this case, those principles have cost them money.”
In an effort to restrict the spread of COVID-19, Prince Edward Island has required people to wear face masks in indoor public places, including retail establishments, since November 2020. That requirement is scheduled to be lifted this Friday, May 6.
In January, Ceretti showed his support to Islanders joining the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa, with his store acting as a gathering point for vehicles taking part in the protest against vaccine and mask mandates.