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COVID-19: B.C.’s principals support ‘exclusion zones’ after anti-vaccine protesters target schools

Click to play video: 'Bubble zones and injunctions considered after anti-vaccine protestors enter schools in Salmon Arm' Bubble zones and injunctions considered after anti-vaccine protestors enter schools in Salmon Arm
The B.C. Government says it's prepared to take strict action to prevent anti-vaccine protestors from entering schools. That was the disturbing situation in Salmon Arm last week when schools were forced to go into a hold and secure mode--meaning all school doors were locked and students instructed to stay in their classrooms. Those measures remain in effect this week as the government considers its next step to ensure protestors don't come near schools again. Klaudia Van Emmerik has the latest – Sep 20, 2021

Schools in the North Okanagan-Shuswap district were locked on Monday in response to Friday’s protest by opponents of the COVID-19 vaccine.

A statement from School District 83 said protesters entered two elementary schools and a secondary school in Salmon Arm in demonstrations the school district called “completely unacceptable.”

It’s a Pro-D day in the district today so students are not in class and the district hasn’t said if the stepped-up security measures will end by tomorrow.

Read more: B.C. considers no-protest ‘bubble zones’ after vaccine protesters target schools

The three affected schools in Salmon Arm were placed in a “hold and secure” protocol on Friday, meaning no one could go in or out and the district says it will work with RCMP to ensure protesters are kept off school property.

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Click to play video: 'Growing outrage over anti-vaccine protests that forced Salmon Arm schools into lockdown' Growing outrage over anti-vaccine protests that forced Salmon Arm schools into lockdown
Growing outrage over anti-vaccine protests that forced Salmon Arm schools into lockdown – Sep 18, 2021

B.C.’s minister of public safety, Mike Farnworth, said the province is looking at “all possible options,” including so-called “bubble zones” and injunctions, following the school protests.

“Bubble zones,” which create a no-protest area for a given distance around a service or facility, were first legislated in British Columbia in 1995 in order to curtail protests outside abortion clinics.

The revived concept has the support of Darren Danyluk, president of the B.C. Principals’ & Vice-Principals’ Association.

Read more: ‘It’s despicable’: Reaction pours in after protesters target B.C. hospitals over ‘health freedom’

“I would be in support of those measures being taken. Schools are open facilities, typically you can’t be monitoring every door at all times so establishing a buffer zone I think would be a fair measure,” he told Global News.

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Click to play video: 'Anti-vaccine and anti-mandate protesters enter Salmon Arm schools prompting lockdown' Anti-vaccine and anti-mandate protesters enter Salmon Arm schools prompting lockdown
Anti-vaccine and anti-mandate protesters enter Salmon Arm schools prompting lockdown – Sep 18, 2021

“One more level of mitigation, screening against people coming in that have intent on disrupting the learning environment, that’s just more than we should be asking of our educators and our school leaders. I would be in favour of a buffer or a bubble to keep those spaces protected.”

Danyluk said he hasn’t been made aware of future protests targeting B.C. schools, but doubts it was a one-off event.

“I know that there were less concerning episodes in the first week of school where people were publicly demonstrating and engaged with our membership, however, those went far more reasonably,” he said.

Danyluk added that he supports people’s right to free speech, but there is a line to be drawn.

Read more: COVID-19 hospital protests ‘a morale blow’ to Canada’s exhausted health-care workers

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“It’s a right that we enjoy in this country and I would fight for it, but at the same time, a lesson I would teach to children in primary school and intermediate school, with every right comes responsibility and I think that we are obliged to behave responsibly in medical spaces and in educational spaces and what happened Friday wasn’t responsible adult behaviour,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Anti-vaccine and mandate protesters disrupt B.C. schools' Anti-vaccine and mandate protesters disrupt B.C. schools
Anti-vaccine and mandate protesters disrupt B.C. schools – Sep 17, 2021

B.C.’s ministry of education said in a statement that if people are unhappy about government policies, they should focus their dissatisfaction at the government — not at hospitals and schools.

“We are looking at a broader government approach to prevent this from happening again, and we are prepared to take any steps needed to protect students and staff in our schools,” a ministry spokesperson said.

— with files from Simon Little and the Canadian Press 

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