A protest against B.C.’s vaccine passport drew a scant crowd in Kelowna on Wednesday afternoon.
Located in front of Kelowna City Hall, the protest drew around two dozen supporters, with around 12 police officers stationed near the event.
Since its inception, the province’s vaccine passport has drawn either praise or scorn. But no matter how one feels, B.C.’s card system comes into effect on Sept. 13.
That means residents will have to prove their vaccination status in order to enter certain non-essential services, such as restaurants and gyms.
An hour before the rally at 1 p.m., the City of Kelowna issued a press release regarding enforcement at public gatherings, along with information about the passport rollout.
“With a new vaccine passport rolling out in the next week and as public gatherings continue against provincial public health orders, the City of Kelowna is providing information about enforcement roles,” read the email.
“City of Kelowna bylaw enforcement continues at public gatherings where organizers have failed to obtain the appropriate event-related permits.”
“The city acknowledges and supports the fundamental freedom of peaceful assembly,” said Mayor Colin Basran.
“But there are limits to what is considered a protest and we have no tolerance for those who flout the rules for public events that everyone else has to follow.”
According to the city, B.C.’s Supreme Court struck down a provincial public health order banning outdoor protests. It said as a result of that decision, outdoor gatherings for the purpose of public protest cannot be prohibited and participants cannot be ticketed or fined.
“However, amplified entertainment, event tents and product sales in city parks are not protests and the appropriate bylaws are enforced when this kind of organized event is held without appropriate permits,” said the city.
In fact, the city said in the past three weeks, event organizers in Kelowna were issued 14 fines totalling $3,900 for non-compliance with the city’s outdoor events bylaw.
“The role of the RCMP and the city is to maintain public order and minimize the impact and inconvenience caused by lawful and peaceful protests,” said the city.
“Police continue to assess risks at public gatherings, resource them accordingly, and respond to ensure safety, enforce public health orders, and balance the rights of those protesting with the safety of the community.”
Regarding the passport rollout, the city said enforcing compliance will be “handled by a variety of agencies that have the appropriate legislative authority to respond.”
The city said police will respond if there is an imminent threat or potential for immediate harm.
“This a new and dynamic situation and while B.C.’s proof of vaccination program is finalized, the RCMP is determining our role in this process,” said RCMP Supt. Kara Triance.
“The RCMP is committed to working with our partners to ensure the safety of our community as we move forward together.”