BC introduces legislation to protect hospitals, schools, vaccination clinics from protests
Protests at hospitals, schools, and COVID-19 vaccination clinics could soon be banned in British Columbia.
Earlier this week, the provincial government introduced new legislation that will create “protected zones” around education and healthcare facilities if passed. The move comes after several COVID-19 protests in September that disrupted hospitals across the province.
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Schools have also been affected by these protests. On September 17, two schools in Salmon Arm went into lockdown after anti-vaccination protesters entered the buildings.
Premier John Horgan says that the decision to interfere with hospitals and schools is entirely unacceptable.
“While everyone has a right to protest, interfering with patients accessing hospital care or with kids trying to get to school is completely unacceptable,” he says in a statement. “This legislation will help to keep these important facilities secure and ensure the safety of both those who use them and those who work in them.”
Attorney General David Eby adds that while free speech is an important right, “there is no right to intimidate already stressed and pressured healthcare workers, parents, students, teachers, and staff.”
The legislation proposes a 20-metre access zone around hospitals, COVID-19 test and vaccination centres, and K-12 schools.
“Within an access zone, it will be an offence to impede access to the facility, disrupt services, or act in a way that could reasonably be expected to cause service users or providers concern for their physical or mental safety,” the provincial government says.
Police will also have the ability to arrest or issue tickets to anyone who disrupts access or service to a facility or attempts to intimidate an individual inside of an access zone. Courts can also issue injunctions to prevent protesters from contravening the act.
If passed, the act would provide protection until July 1, 2023; although, it can be repealed earlier if it is no longer needed.