Salt Springers asked to not rally
Salt Spring RCMP members are asking residents to reconsider gathering and to explore other options to demonstrate their beliefs instead of attending protest events that were planned for the island later this week.
Detachment commander Sgt. Clive Seabrook issued a statement Monday in regard to the Rally for Freedom, which was planned to take place at Centennial Park Saturday at noon in conjunction with similar events happening around the world.
“We are aware there is a rally planned for this upcoming weekend and while we absolutely support a person’s democratic right to demonstrate, now is not the time to be gathering; we need to remain vigilant,” Seabrook said in his statement.
Seabrook said Salt Spring RCMP will continue to work with partners at the provincial health authority and the BC Prosecution Service to address all ongoing violations of public health orders. Organizers of planned events can face fines of $2,300 and attendees may also be fined $230, he said.
The sergeant noted even though provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry relaxed some of the restrictions around gathering outside with friends last week, there continues to be high numbers of new COVID-19 cases reported daily in B.C.
“The important thing to understand is that these gatherings are still limited to people within your own cohort and gatherings for events such as a rally or protest remain prohibited,” Seabrook said.
“I want to caution people who violate the provincial health order, and reassure the general public, that Salt Spring Island is an incredible place to live, with strong community spirit, which is why I am personally asking residents, instead of attending events like these that create division in our community, to please continue to work together to keep Salt Spring Island safe and healthy during this global pandemic.”
BC Ferries communications director Deborah Marshall said Monday the company is aware that protests are planned to take place on Saturday and that Salt Spring is slated as a location.
“We certainly recognize people’s right to protest or hold a gathering, as long as it doesn’t impede our operations,” Marshall said.
The company will enforce its rule about wearing masks on board ships, however, and may take extra steps if people are causing problems.
“We may have to call the authorities,” Marshall said.
BC Ferries banned a group of anti-mask protesters from using its services after they caused a disturbance on a sailing from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay last October.
The organizer of a second protest that was scheduled to run this Friday has decided not to proceed after speaking with RCMP about the regulations. Jean Wilkinson was coordinating a Forest March BC event in which participants would be wearing masks and be spaced two metres apart, but she reversed course with new understanding of enforcement measures.
Wilkinson urges people who are concerned about provincial forestry policy and wish to “Take a Stand for Trees” to protect ecosystem health and biodiversity to participate in other ways. They can start by writing letters to elected officials and ministers, Wilkinson said.
“Emailing and writing letters to government is the key thing in the long run. And the social media campaign could be a fun way to participate,” she said.
People are also invited to support the cause through the Tree Pose Challenge by taking a photo of themselves with their favourite tree or shrub and sharing it on Facebook (@forestmarchbc), Twitter (@bcforestmarch) and Instagram (@bcforestmarch).
For more information on the provincial health orders, visit the BC Government website