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Sask. plans to keep protestors from school zones with youth vaccination underway

This file photo shows Crescents school in Regina. Shawn Knox / Global News

As the government of Saskatchewan prepares its vaccination rollout for kids aged five to 11, it’s also introducing legislation to ensure schools access is “harassment free” by keeping protestors at least 50 metres away from school property.

The Education (Safe Access to Schools) Amendment Act received its first reading in the legislature Monday, courtesy Saskatchewan Justice Minister Gordon Wyant.

Education Minister Dustin Duncan, who was not present in the legislative chamber Monday, said in a supplied news release that the new legislation follows legislation introduced to prevent protests near hospitals.

“Similar to the protections provided for patients, staff and families accessing our hospitals it is important that our children, parents, teachers and staff are able to access schools in the province without fear of interference or intimidation,” Duncan said.

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“In particular it is important to ensure our children do not feel scared or threatened.”

Read more: Saskatchewan government introduces plans to keep protesters away from hospitals

Like the legislation introduced for hospitals, the new rules for school areas are intended to expire after two years.

Labour picketing will still be allowed within what the government is calling “safe access zones” around schools.

When commenting on the legislation to create safe school access zones, Health Minister Paul Merriman said his government hopes to work with the opposition to expedite that bill’s passing.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority says more than 110 schools province-wide have been identified for use as vaccination clinics.

Clinics for youth five to 11 are set to begin opening Wednesday.

Read more: COVID-19: Saskatchewan’s below 1,000 active cases for first time since mid-August

The legislation was welcomed by the Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation (STF).

“We’re very supportive of providing layers of security through legislation and restricting protesting outside of a school building,” STF President Patrick Maze said, adding he’s heard of at least one instance where a group of protesters actually entered a Saskatchewan school building to protest.

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“It’s important staff and students can conduct the education without those kinds of concerns.”

Maze added, though, that he would have liked to have seen the legislation extended to include school board offices.

“I’ve heard of a few division offices that have been targeted in recent months and that was usually over the mask provisions,” Maze said.

Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili said he’s willing to work with the government to expedite the passing of the legislation.

“We’ll have some questions but we are very much in favour of it advancing,” he said.

 

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