British Columbia

Kelowna RCMP, mayor caution people not to join weekend anti-mask rally

In their video statements released Wednesday, Kelowna RCMP Supt. Kara Triance and Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran remind people not to participate in a mega rally that is planned for this weekend.

The protest is unlawful and endangers local residents, says Supt. Kara Triance

In mid-December, about 1,000 people attended a rally in Kelowna, B.C., against provincial health restrictions intended to curb the spread of COVID-19. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

Kelowna RCMP and the mayor warn people not to join a mega rally against COVID-19 restrictions planned for this weekend.

In a video statement released Wednesday, Supt. Kara Triance said the prospective march through downtown of the central Okanagan city is unlawful and endangers people living in the community.

"People in Canada have a democratic right to lawful and peaceful protest, but your rights do not supersede public safety," Triance said in the statement. "We need to find a balance between having a voice and remaining safe during these unprecedented times."

Anti-mask rallies have taken place in Kelowna on several Saturdays since December, with participants ranging from 100 to 1,000.

WATCH | Supt. Kara Triance's warning on anti-mask rally this weekend

Mayor Colin Basran says the protesters do not represent Kelowna.

"I urge anyone thinking of travelling here to join these protests to reconsider. Your disregard for the safety of others is not welcome here," said Basran in a video statement Wednesday.

"Kelowna is an inclusive city where we respect each other's rights, and that includes the right to feel safe during a pandemic," he said.

The Mounties have fined a person three times for organizing the downtown protests against public health orders. Last time on Jan. 16, the police charged a penalty of $2,300.

WATCH | Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran's warning on anti-mask rally this weekend

Mark Burley, executive director of the Downtown Kelowna Association, says he has been reminding member businesses to be aware of upcoming rallies.

"Call the police if you're being harassed," Burley said on CBC's Daybreak South about the message he gives to downtown businesses.

He says his association hasn't received many calls for help from businesses about anti-mask rallies. When they have, protesters had already left the scene when the police and association representatives arrived to intervene.

Burley echoes calls not to join the rally this weekend.

"There's no physical distance and obviously no masks, and these rallies attract people from outside of our community," he said. "You don't know the person you're standing next to you. You don't know if they have COVID-19." 

Tap the link below to hear Mark Burley's interview on Daybreak South:

Mark Burley, executive director of Downtown Kelowna Association, speaks to Chris Walker. 6:28

With files from Daybreak South

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