British Columbia

2 anti-COVID-mandate protesters charged with criminal offences in Kelowna

RCMP say two people who were caught on camera in connection with two separate COVID-19 protests in Kelowna last year have been charged with hate crimes, after a lengthy investigation.

Bruce Orydzuk and Linda Jackson will appear in court next month for offences caught on camera last year

Bruce Orydzuk, 60, has been charged with one count of 'causing a disturbance' after he made racially charged accusations toward a security guard who was wearing a turban, outside a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Kelowna. (CBC News)

RCMP say two people who were caught on camera in connection with two separate COVID-19 protests in Kelowna last year have been charged with hate crimes, after a lengthy investigation.

Police say 60-year-old Bruce Orydzuk has been charged with one count of "causing a disturbance" under the Criminal Code, after a video surfaced online of Orydzuk repeatedly yelling at a security guard to "go back to his country" after the guard, who was wearing a turban, asked him to leave the property of a COVID-19 vaccine clinic on Springfield Road, July 13.

Prosecutors have also charged Kelowna resident Linda Jackson, 56, with one count of "disturbing order or solemnity of a meeting," after a video surfaced online of a woman, presumed to be Jackson, reading statements about vaccines behind a live microphone during an informal Remembrance Day ceremony at the city's cenotaph last November.

Police say between 75 and 100 demonstrators had attended to disrupt the ceremony where veterans had gathered.

Jackson will appear in Kelowna provincial court on May 19, while Orydzuk is set to appear in court on May 26. 

Both people are known in relation to a small but vocal group of anti-vaccine protesters that repeatedly hold rallies in Kelowna decrying public health orders.

Orydzuk was also charged last month with one count of "uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm" after he verbally attacked a Global TV reporter at a separate anti-vaccine rally last year and will appear in court Thursday on that charge.

Kelowna RCMP Insp. Adam MacIntosh delivers details of the criminal charges at a public news conference on Wednesday, April 13. (CBC News)

"There is no tolerance for hate," said Kelowna RCMP Insp. Adam MacIntosh, at a news conference Wednesday. "Everyone is allowed to protest, everyone is allowed to have their own opinion, but when your actions and opinions cross a line and a criminal investigation is warranted, we will investigate."

MacIntosh said police have to weigh a person's right to free speech with the possibility of a criminal offence before submitting the cases to the B.C. Prosecution Service for review. 

"Coming up and taking control of a mic as part of a ceremony is an element of an offence," he said, stating that to his knowledge Jackson's charge under Section 176(2) of the Criminal Code is a very rare one.

"I've never seen it personally," he said.

MacIntosh said he anticipates there will be more COVID-19-related rallies in Kelowna this year.

With files from Brady Strachan and Adam van der Zwan.

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