New legislation will help prevent protests from disrupting access to critical services across B.C.
“Over the last few months, we’ve seen a small number of people protesting against COVID-19 protective measures by blocking access to healthcare facilities and schools,” said Premier John Horgan.
“While everyone has a right to protest, interfering with patients accessing hospital care or with kids trying to get to school is completely unacceptable. This legislation will help to keep these important facilities secure and ensure the safety of both those who use them and those who work in them.”
The legislation will protect hospitals, COVID-19 test and vaccination centres and K-12 schools by placing a 20-metre access zone around them.
It will be an offence to impede access to the facility, disrupt services, or act in a way that could cause providers to fear for their physical or mental safety within those zones.
“The pandemic has been incredibly stressful for all British Columbians, and we don’t need added pressure on key workers who are already under significant strain due to the impact of COVID-19,” said David Eby, Attorney General.
“Free speech is an important right, but there is no right to intimidate already stressed and pressured health-care workers, patients, students, teachers and staff. This bill establishes vital safeguards for our heroic essential service providers so they can do their jobs for all of us.”
The act will give police the power to arrest or issue tickets to anyone disrupting services or access to the facilities.
The act does not apply to lawful job action in access zones, as determined by the Labour Relations Board.
“It’s time now for the Province to act to keep our essential workers safe and ensure that disruptive actions do not put them under further stress or prevent people from accessing life-saving health care in their time of need,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health.
The legislation will be in place until July 1, 2023, but might be repealed earlier if it’s no longer necessary.