When the City of Toronto announced a second lockdown in November 2020, restaurant owner Adam Skelly defied the orders and hosted a civil disobedience protest outside of his establishment, Adamson BBQ.
Skelly, who’s fighting for his right to keep his establishment open, said lockdowns infringe on his rights and that there’s no reason for the city to shut down small businesses.
“From the start of this pandemic, I had my doubts. The government seemed like they had an agenda to really destroy small businesses or put them into a debt position that they will never get out of. As my own form of protest, I opened the restaurant so that I can challenge these emergency orders in the court system,” Skelly told INN24 in an interview.
The three-day protest caught the attention of hundreds of supporters and critics who gathered outside of the restaurant. Dozens of police officers were called to stand outside of the premise, preventing anyone from entering.
The City of Toronto and police officers had changed the locks of Adamson BBQ after Dr. Eileen de Villa, medical officer of health for the city, invoked section 22 to close the property. She also stated that she had reasonable beliefs that a communicable disease was present on the property.
“Eileen de Villa claimed to be an occupant of my property. Slapped this notice on my property and then hired the Toronto police service as a third party to come and enforce that act,” Skelly said.
Skelly was arrested on the third day of the protest. He broke through drywall to enter the restaurant and, in the process, damaged the city’s locks. Skelly was charged both criminally and non-criminally with trespassing, intent to obstruct police, violating indoor dining rules, holding an illegal gathering and operating a business without a licence.
Adam Skelly being arrested for trespassing on his property
After Skelly’s arrest, his legal team submitted an appeal to the order issued by Dr. Eileen de Villa, and it was immediately lifted. He said there needs to be proof of a communicable disease on his property, and there was no way to prove that, which is why the order was lifted.
Skelly also said that his legal team believes that the government’s emergency orders violate sections 2,7,9,11 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. To stand up for the hospitality industry, Skelly and his legal team filed a Constitutional challenge.
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom
If the Constitutional challenge is successful, it will force the province to lift the lockdowns and to ensure that these types of prolonged lockdowns do not happen again for small businesses.
However, there is a slight worry for Skelly’s legal team.
Previously, the judge that was assigned to the case recused herself due to scheduling conflicts.
“She has been moved off a civil team and onto a different team of judges. She has been replaced with a different judge that has made three unfavourable rulings related to vaccines and COVID over the last year. This is very concerning to my legal team, but not because of her apparent bias towards the state.”
The new judge has never handled a constitutional challenge. Even though it is a worry for him, he said they will appeal to a higher court if they lose.
Aside from the legal battle, Skelly is also facing repercussions from participating in civil disobedience and political activism.
“My business has gone down from 60 employees down to 6. Half of it from the lockdown and half of it from my political stance, and this activism that I am participating in.”
In 2019, Adamson BBQ had recorded $3.5 million in sales in just one location. Since the lockdowns, his business barely pulled one-third of that between three locations.
Before engaging in civil disobedience, Skelly let his family and employees know what he was going to do. He even had four other restaurateurs who were willing to open up with him but backed out last minute.
“If I didn’t take action, I would be losing my soul. To keep myself quiet and to act like a neutered dog, afraid of the fallout. I couldn’t live with myself through all of that compliance. I had to stand up despite the opposition. I was met with a lot of resistance from my employees.”
After the protest and the arrest, Skelly was met with criticism from some of the public. Some even called him fortunate because of his “white privilege.”
“Do I have privilege because of my skin colour? My father and his father owned businesses. So that was always within my personal scope to be an entrepreneur, so that could be some privilege.”
Some online users said if Skelly was a person of colour, the outcome of the protest could have ended much differently than the way it did.
“There’s a lot of people who claim that if my skin was a different colour that day that something different may have happened. Maybe instead of 250 police officers there and getting arrested for trespassing on my own property, I would have been shot and beaten or something.”
In the exclusive interview, he also confided that he is considering “to take a stab at the office,” he wants to run with honesty and integrity and not ulterior motives.
“I may end up doing more activism work, and I may go into politics. I’d love to go into politics with a big broom and clean up all these corrupt people who perpetuate this evil in their own constituency.”
As for his advice for anyone dealing with damages inflicted by the lockdowns, Skelly urges people to be truthful and contact him for help and advice.
“Maybe you’re afraid of the social consequences for speaking your truth. I’ve gone out and done that, and I’ve taken all the arrows for it. It’s challenging, but it’s very rewarding. Because when you act in integrity and stand up for what you believe in, you are standing in truth and power, and no one can get through that.”
“Every day when you are not living in your truth, you are losing a little bit of your soul.”
Stay tuned for the full interview.
Wiki Production Code: A0691