Mayor’s statement on protestors who flout safety orders

January 8, 2021

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran has issued the following statement:

“Having just confirmed that another protest is planned for tomorrow by those who oppose public health orders, my Council colleagues and I once again urge protesters to respect their fellow citizens by wearing masks and keeping a safe physical distance from each other.

“People have the right to peacefully protest, but they do not have the right to put others at risk by defying public health orders.

“A vast majority of our citizens follow all public health orders, and Council is very encouraged by this community spirit to keep each other safe. But we are also frustrated, as I know many others are, with those who continue to openly flout public health orders.

“Individual rights and freedoms are fundamental to our democracy, but they are only possible within parameters established by the democratic process. We cannot travel the wrong way down a one-way street because we have a selfish wish to get somewhere faster. These parameters of shared ideals prioritize our collective needs over individual wishes.

“Since April, Bylaw Services and RCMP have responded to nearly 1,000 complaints from the public about situations that contravene Public Health Orders. While voluntary compliance is achieved in the majority of cases, RCMP are now issuing fines to event organizers of $2,300 and fines to individuals of $230. 

“RCMP are vigilantly educating and proactively dissuading organizers of rallies and large group gatherings. When events proceed despite these efforts, RCMP attend, assess and take action that balances the democratic rights of people to peacefully protest with the necessity to ensure public safety and security. It’s a difficult balance to achieve in what can be a dynamic and potentially volatile situation.

“Doctors at Kelowna General Hospital recently expressed their serious concern about the rising number of COVID-19 cases in our city. Lives are at risk and the potential to overwhelm the healthcare system is very real. We can see from other jurisdictions what happens when public health rules aren’t followed – increased deaths, increased ICU patients, health systems overwhelmed, schools and businesses closed, and more restrictive measures put in place.

“The science is clear – following public health rules saves lives.

“There is no question that the restrictions and health orders have been a challenge for many. Businesses and individuals have suffered – and we’ re all tired of this. But we can see the finish line ahead and we must all finish the race together.

“These words might not convince those who oppose health orders or who don’t believe the science, but it is Council’s hope that those who do share a commitment to public health and security are encouraged to keep up the fight against this virus. Stay calm, be kind and be safe.”