Hundreds gather in Penticton in June 2020, for the Black Lives Matter protest. (Phil McLachlan, Black Press Media)

Penticton residents fire back at RCMP over right to protests during pandemic

As long as COVID-19 safety measures are maintained, citizens have a right to protest

A rally set to take place in front of Penticton City Hall against council’s decision to close the Victory Church Winter Shelter has drawn contention from many in the community.

One citizen sent in a letter to the editor expressing their concerns over the Penticton RCMP’s statements regarding the legality of the gatherings in light of COVID-19.

“I am deeply shook that the RCMP may have misrepresented or misled the public on their rights,” said Cameron Baughen, an employee of the Regional District of the Okanagan-Similkameen, in the emailed letter. “Clarifying the steps required to meet the health order and not threatening people peacefully assembling should be the role for the RCMP.”

The public health order regarding gatherings, per the most recent version hosted on the Government of B.C. website,

explicitly notes the Charter Right for Canadian’s to gather to communicate their position on an issue, as long they maintain public health recommendations.

“I am not prohibiting outdoor assemblies for the purpose of communicating a position on a matter of public interest or controversy, subject to my expectation that persons organizing or attending such an assembly will take the steps and put in place the measures recommended in the guidelines posted on my website in order to limit the risk of transmission of COVID-19,” reads the order by Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer.

During the Black Lives Matter protests in Penticton, organizers and participants maintained social distancing and wore masks, per the guidelines, and did not see an RCMP response.

Neither did the rally in support of the farmers in India, or the rally in opposition to the development of Spiller Road on the Naramata Bench.

The Penticton Western News has reached out to local RCMP on the issue.

READ MORE: ‘Bring your tent’: Protest planned in Penticton’s Gyro Park over winter shelter closure

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


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