Rob Shaw: The NDP promised a bubble zone law in September – but yesterday, protesters ruined a Remembrance Day ceremony. What’s the holdup?
Anti-vax protesters crashing a Remembrance Day ceremony in Kelowna is another wake-up call to the BC government that it needs to introduce a robust “bubble zone” law as quickly as possible.
Dozens of people opposed to vaccine mandates interrupted a ceremony at Kelowna’s city cenotaph on Remembrance Day, infuriating local residents and veterans who were there to pay their respects to fallen soldiers.
“All of a sudden we heard a lot of booing and screaming and commotion, and then we saw veterans … storming out. Some of them were crying, some were yelling. They were all upset,” one witness told CBC News.
Some people, including elderly veterans with medals pinned to their chest, tried to confront the anti-vax crew, but the lead woman just kept shouting into the microphone, according to a video of the event posted by local news site KelownaNow.
It was, in a word, disgusting.
But it fits into a larger trend we’ve seen of anti-vax protesters targeting sensitive locations to try and garner publicity – elementary schools, health care sites, and hospital emergency rooms, to name a few.
The BC government has pledged to introduce some sort of bubble zone legislation that would make it illegal to protest outside of certain locations, to prevent the intimidation of children and health care workers.
The government should add veterans to that list, to protect Remembrance Day ceremonies in the future.
Without such a law, idiot protesters are apparently able to scare and upset vulnerable kids and seniors with few penalties. Kelowna RCMP said they are investigating, but the tools available to police – public mischief charges, or uttering threats, for example – don’t quite match the repugnant nature of what’s happening.
Other provinces have moved ahead quickly with their bubble zone protections, including Nova Scotia, Quebec, Alberta (in a different way) and most recently Saskatchewan on Nov. 10.
Saskatchewan’s law would create protection zones 50 metres from hospitals and health care sites, making it illegal for the next two years for anyone to harass workers, block ambulances and do other ridiculous things you wouldn’t think you have to spell out in legislation – but yet here we are in 2021.
It’s not entirely clear what’s taking the BC government so long.
Premier John Horgan said BC would move forward with the idea in September. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth repeated the pledge when the legislature opened its fall session in October. There’s now only two weeks left in the session, and the bill is nowhere to be seen.
Still, the idea is likely to sail through the legislature with support from the other parties, so the government still has time.
It’s clear the moronic anti-vax protesters aren’t going anywhere; if anything, they are becoming emboldened with the lack of penalties.
BC should give itself room in the law to add new areas as they are targeted, like Remembrance Day sites, to protect the public, healthcare workers, and now veterans, from being harassed by aggressive anti-vax fools.
Rob Shaw has spent more than 13 years covering BC politics, now reporting for CHEK News and writing for The Orca. He is the co-author of the national best-selling book A Matter of Confidence, and a regular guest on CBC Radio.