An apparent mega rally set for downtown Kelowna this coming weekend has drawn the attention of police and local officials.
On Wednesday, Kelowna RCMP Supt. Kara Triance posted an online video cautioning people not to attend the rally, which she called unlawful.
The video was then followed by a City of Kelowna announcement urging people not to attend. It also said the decision to hold a rally was extremely disappointing.
In the video, Triance said “the plans this weekend for a mega rally and a march through downtown Kelowna in protest of the public health orders are very concerning.
“The events leading up this have shown that people will gather and protest the public health orders and be loud and vocal in opposition to what’s been put in place in response to the global pandemic.
“This is unlawful, and it’s putting our community in danger.”
Triance said police will be “taking all steps possible, in our lawful authority, to stop these actions.”
Specifically, she said RCMP are operating under the provisions of the Emergency Program Measures Act, including laying fines, and where appropriate, working with the BC Prosecution Service to compel people to court.
“I want to take this opportunity right now to dissuade anyone from attending this march, or from attending the area in protest of the march,” said Triance.
“People in Canada have a democratic right to lawful and peaceful protest, but your rights do not supersede public safety. We need to find a balance between having a voice and remaining safe during these unprecedented times.”
She continued, saying, “should these protests take place, our officers will be present to ensure the safety of the public and the protestors, and to prevent confrontations.
“It’s these incidents that put our officers and our public at risk for injury and possible infection. However, our officers will be present collecting evidence as part of our investigation and there to keep our public safe.”
Meanwhile, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said it was extremely disappointing and concerning that some community members continue to put themselves and others at risk by refusing to follow public health orders.
“Kelowna is an inclusive city where we respect each other’s rights, and that includes the right to feel safe during a pandemic,” said Basran.
“We might not convince people who oppose public health orders or who don’t believe in science to wear masks and keep a safe distance from each other, but we hope this statement keeps the silent majority motivated to continue following public health orders.”
Basran continued, saying, “we are getting closer to the end of this, and now is not the time to lose our focus on respecting and protecting each other from a resurgence in local outbreaks.”
According to the city, one rally organizer has been fined three times so far, with the fines totalling $7,000.
“Those fines will continue,” said the city, “and we are in conversation with the provincial government and Crown Counsel to substantially increase the fine amount for people who repeatedly flout the law and put our residents at risk.”