Police in British Columbia’s capital say they racked up nearly $400,000 in overtime costs over three months of protests against COVID-19 restrictions this year.
Victoria police say the overtime costs of $385,947 incurred while working demonstrations near the legislature between January and April were covered by the provincial government.
The demonstrations were among scores of similar protests across the country this year associated with the “freedom convoy” movement.
Protesters called for the end of COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other public heath restrictions in frequent staged demonstrations outside the B.C. legislature.
In the wake of the three-week occupation of Ottawa by convoy protesters that resulted in the federal government invoking the Emergencies Act, Victoria police set up “controlled access points” with the goal of keeping vehicle convoys out of the legislative precinct.
Protesters with the group Canada Unity, which also participated in the Ottawa encampment, had vowed to occupy the area around the legislature for “months.”
Virtually all B.C. COVID-19 restrictions have been eliminated, including the province’s mask mandate and vaccine passport. Health-care staff in B.C.’s acute care and long-term care sectors must still be vaccinated to work, though, and federal requirements for vaccination to board an aircraft or train still remain in effect.
Victoria police say despite “significant tensions” between protesters and counter-protesters, there were no injuries, significant property damage or occupation.
Police did issue 50 tickets under B.C.’s Motor Vehicle Act, dozens of Notice and Order and four city bylaw citations for excessive honking.
Three people were also arrested.
Police said they were on-site to keep the peace and ensure demonstrators could exercise their right to free expression while ensuring the events did not unduly disrupt residents and local businesses.
The release of policing costs comes as Ottawa faces a weekend biker convoy dubbed “Rolling Thunder.”
As of Saturday, Ottawa police said seven people had been arrested at that event, which included a large motorcycle convoy through the city and demonstrations at the National War Memorial.