Joint statement on protests from Kelowna RCMP, City of Kelowna
With another protest rally planned for Saturday in Kelowna, Mayor Colin Basran and RCMP Superintendent Kara Triance provided this joint statement to describe what is being done to limit risks to the public. They also provided this video statement.
As a third wave of COVID-19 infections takes more lives and puts pressure on health services in British Columbia, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran praises local citizens for their efforts protect themselves and others from infection, while RCMP Supt. Kara Triance describes the role of police in the wake of a court ruling that affirms the right to gather and protest.
“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,” said Mayor Basran.
“At the same time, we have also always said we wish people at these rallies would follow public health orders like everyone else – and that message has not changed,” he said.
On March 18, the B.C. Supreme Court struck down the Public Health Order related to outdoor gatherings or protests. The Court determined that the Order infringed on sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms establishing the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.
Given this Court ruling, the RCMP approach is to maintain order and minimize the impact and inconvenience that lawful and peaceful protests create for the rest of the community.
“The role of the police during this pandemic response has been challenging and ever changing,” said Supt. Triance. “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.”
Supt. Triance said the RCMP work to find a balance between education and compliance checks or fines. They work with community partners in support of COVID-19 compliance checks, investigate complaints and issue fines where appropriate.
On March 25, the Province announced an increase for individual fines to $575 from $230 for non-compliance with Health Orders.
“Law enforcement in a large crowd is a challenge. In these cases, best practices for police are to make sure the event remains peaceful and that people remain respectful towards each other,” said Supt. Triance.
Mayor Basran notes the protesters represent a fraction of people compared to the many thousands of Kelowna citizens who follow all public health orders.
“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,” said Mayor Basran.
“We all want the same thing – to get through this pandemic as safely and quickly as we can,” said Supt. Triance.