As B.C. enters the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions continue, the City of Kelowna’s mayor and RCMP superintendent are warning against an upcoming anti-COVID rally.
“We have always said we respect the right to protest peacefully, and the B.C. Supreme Court ruled in March that the outdoor rallies we’ve seen on weekends in Kelowna are in fact legal,” Basran said in a video statement.
“At the same time, we have also always said we wish people at these rallies would follow public health orders like everyone else and the message has not changed.”
Kelowna RCMP Supt. Kara Triance said the police’s role during these times has been challenging.
“We continue to attempt to dissuade protests and gatherings, but when they take place, the RCMP is present to ensure the safety of the public, and the protestors, and to prevent confrontations,” she said.
She said officers will continue to work with community partners to support COVID-19 compliance checks, investigate complaints and issue fines when appropriate.
The BC Supreme Court struck down the public health order related to outdoor gatherings or protests on March 18, stating the order infringed on people’s freedom to have a peaceful assembly and to have freedom of association.
Since the ruling, the Kelowna RCMP’s approach has been to maintain order and minimize the impact and inconvenience of the lawful protests when they happen.
As such, Triance said officers are working to find a balance between education and compliance checks or fines.
Basran added that the people who join the protests against COVID-19 restrictions are a fraction of people compared to the many others who follow public health orders in Kelowna.
“With dangerous new variants in this third wave of the pandemic, everyone should wear a mask, keep a safe distance from each other and limit travel in our community, or to our community,” he said.