Kelowna RCMP want to be called if anti-vaccine protesters get rowdy | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna RCMP want to be called if anti-vaccine protesters get rowdy

Kelowna RCMP Supt. Kara Triance.
September 13, 2021 - 11:20 AM

With the B.C. vaccine card launched today, Kelowna RCMP are expecting to add to the $10,000 in fines they’ve already handed out to people violating COVID-19 rules.

And criminal charges for causing a disturbance or even fraud are distinct possibilities, whether that’s at anti-vaccine rallies, as planned for Kelowna and Kamloops today, or in restaurants.

“Anybody having problems accessing medical services, health-care services or any essential services during a time when a protest is happening, please call the RCMP, we want to receive your calls,” Kelowna RCMP Supt. Kara Triance said during a press conference today, Sept. 13.

She was referring to a protest earlier this month in front of Kelowna General Hospital where paramedics and patients had trouble getting past the protesters.

READ MORE: 'How dare you': Healthcare workers react to rally against COVID vaccine cards at Kelowna General

A similar protest is scheduled for 2 p.m. today. Organized by a group called Canadian Frontline Nurses, they are supposed to be peaceful protests at hospitals across the country.

But the Kelowna event will be at the Interior Health building on Doyle Avenue while the Kamloops event will be at the courthouse on Columbia Street.

Police knew about the Sept. 1 protest at Kelowna General Hospital before it happened but did not have a sense of the number of people who would attend. More than 1,000 are reported to have shown up.

“An event of that scale requires a magnitude of planning,” Triance said. “We were planning for all scenarios, from the number we saw there that day to minimum numbers, so you begin to surge in additional resources, pulling in resources that are on their current priorities and mandates and shifting them onto that proactive mandate of crowd control and policing these large events.

READ MORE: Hospital says protests against pandemic measures 'demoralizing' for health-care staff

“It’s challenging. In these situations you can begin to arrest one person, two people, three people at a time. However, that can create, in and of itself, a whole other set of risks not only for the crowd there but for people trying to access essential services and the police on the scene.”

But it’s not just rallies that have kept the RCMP busy this summer. It’s also people harassing businesses for following public health orders.

“If a business feels they’re under threats or they’re unable to lawfully operate their businesses, we need to be able to respond and ensure their safety,” Triance said. “We will be ensuring safety for everyone in businesses, ensuring that patrons can lawfully access premises that are complying with health orders."

READ MORE: Singh, Trudeau vow crackdown on hospital protests as parties denounce demonstrations

She’s heard that some people plan to order multiple meals then not show up to pay for them. They could face fraud charges.

Others who “dine and dash” can be charged with theft or threatening behaviour could trigger charges of uttering threats, she said.

This is in addition to fines, of which $10,000 worth have been issued to date by the Kelowna RCMP.

Local businesses are feeling threatened already because of public sentiment against the vaccine cards.

READ MORE: Here’s how to get your B.C. COVID-19 vaccination card

Some, like Woody’s Pub in Lake County, have chosen to close today to give their staff a break and try to avoid the backlash.

“Lately, we have been subjected to a barrage of insults and threats ‘if’ we implement the passport,” the owners posted on their Facebook page. “People we have shared our table with and bought drinks for have promised to make life difficult for our staff members or to boycott us for our choices.

“Let us be clear: We do not make the rules! But, we must play by them in order to keep operating. We want to stay open to continue to support your ball teams, your school fundraisers and host your birthday parties!”

Also in Lake Country, Norman’s Diner posted on its Facebook page, asking people to not take out their frustrations on staff.

“We are disheartened to find that there has been an unacceptable amount of harassment towards our team in the last couple of days, as we draw closer to the implementation of the vaccine passport,” the Norman's Diner post reads. “Our staff are not trained or expected to engage in arguments regarding the COVID passport, mask mandates, and other public health orders. These are good people and members of your community, working hard to give our guests a positive experience, despite dealing with the stresses of the times.

“Please do not bully, harass or even question them on what their personal opinion is. Please do not try to guilt or shame them for working in a business that complies with Public Health Orders.”

Triance made it clear that police are quite willing to escort troublemakers out of businesses. While their first step is to educate, repeat offenders will certainly be fined or charged.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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