A protest planned for around the British Columbia legislature over COVID-19 mandates has drawn sharp criticism from the province’s premier.
Video posted on social media says a convoy of vehicles is on the way from Ottawa to Victoria where people are preparing to stay for months to conduct multiple rolling protests.
The video said some of the protesters could be expected in Victoria as early as Monday.
In response, Premier John Horgan said those involved need to “get a hobby” and “give their head a shake.”
“Find a better way to take your energies [out] and put it to positive outcomes, that’s my recommendation,” he said while addressing reporters on Friday. “I’m hopeful that some of the people planning to come take that to heart and do the right thing.”
B.C. lifted its mask mandate on Friday and plans to stop its COVID-19 vaccine passport program in April, although the province’s top doctor said the measures could be reinstated if there is a surge in cases.
Horgan said Victoria police have learned lessons from how Ottawa’s police force handled the protest and that “asking nicely” doesn’t work.
Many downtown Ottawa businesses and roads were shut down or impacted by the three-week protest by a convoy of big-rig trucks and other vehicles.
Ottawa’s police chief resigned amid intense criticism over how his force handled the downtown occupation, while the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act only to revoke it again when the convoy ended in a police crackdown and arrests.
“They were not met with an appropriate response,” said Horgan. “I know that law enforcement in Victoria ... will encourage people to make their point and disperse. That’s the normal course of action in civil disobedience.
He added that the protesters’ freedom “is not greater than anyone else’s.”
Victoria police Chief Del Manak said in a video statement that officers have heard concerns from residents about the impact of protests and “any dangerous acts” will be met with de-escalation and enforcement.
“As [Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth] has stated, legal protests in Canada are part of our free and democratic society. Occupations are not,” he said.
Horgan said citizens have a right to protest but they cannot blockade an area when they are upset.
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