Hart Winter Market to return this weekend

The Hart Community Centre Winter Market will be back in business this weekend, after a miscommunication between organizers and city bylaw officers prompted the market to close on Sunday.

Market organizer Alice Sigurdson said two city bylaw officers attended the market at around 4 p.m. on Saturday, and informed her that the market and its vendors risked being fined $2,300 each for violations of the provincial public health order banning events and gatherings – despite having permission of Northern Health to operate. As a result, organizers cancelled the scheduled market day on Sunday, rather than risk fines.

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"Yes, we had a glitch," Mayor Lyn Hall said. "(But) I think we've rectified that."

In response to questions about the incident by city council on Monday, city director of community services and public safety Adam Davey said the bylaw officers were mistaken.

"The public health order does not apply to the Hart market," Davey said.

Bylaw officers don't have the authority to issue tickets or shut down events for public health violations, but can investigate public complaints and provide information on how to comply with health orders, Davey said. If enforcement action is needed, bylaw officers can refer the matter to the RCMP or public health officials for further action.

"Bylaw (officers) are there to educate and inform," he said.

Acting city manager Walter Babicz said his understanding is that is exactly what happened – the bylaw officers received a compliant, went out to investigate, and provided information to the market organizers. If the market organizers had documentation proving they were authorized to continue with them, the misunderstanding could have been avoided, he added.

"The province puts out information late in the afternoon," Coun. Kyle Sampson said. "It's an unfortunate situation to have happened, but I think we've got it sorted out now."

In an interview on Tuesday morning, Sigurdson said she hadn't received any communication from the city, explaining what happened. She said she'd like some notification in writing from the city, in case a similar situation occurs again.

"The bylaw officer that was here didn't want to listen to me," she said.

While craft fairs are not currently allowed under the temporary, two-week public health orders in place, the Hart market is designated as a community market – a category that includes farmers markets – and is deemed an essential service.

The 28 vendors who were planned to exhibit on Sunday lost potential sales, and some would have lost perishable products as well. One of the vendors intended to sell fresh baked goods, Sigurdson said.

"All of her baking, it was beautiful, she probably had to throw it out. She won't likely be able to sell it this weekend, it won't be fresh," Sigurdson said. "The others just had a small display of food."

The market is scheduled to take place again this weekend, and the first three weekends in December, Sigurdson said. 

She is hopeful the market will be able to reopen and stay open. To ensure the market is able to remain open, vendors will be asked to make sure they are including food items at their booths.

"I'm working on it, because I have people signed up for next weekend," she said. "(But) we need food to come in with the crafts."

See related story, here.

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