British Columbia

Protesters outside children's vaccine clinic in Prince George cleared out by RCMP

RCMP say protesters were shouting at and following parents outside a children's COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Prince George, B.C. Monday, and have been warned they could face arrest if they repeat their actions.

New provincial rules bar protesters from blocking access to hospitals, COVID-19 clinics and schools

RCMP Cpl. Jennifer Cooper outside a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Prince George, B.C. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

RCMP say protesters were shouting at and following parents outside a children's COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Prince George, B.C. Monday, and have been warned they could face arrest if they repeat their actions.

Cpl. Jennifer Cooper says police received multiple calls about a small group of protesters acting in an "intimidating" fashion outside the city's first vaccine clinic for kids aged five to 11 the morning of Dec. 6.

"Complaints received were of protesters following patrons of the clinic to and from their vehicles, as well as shouting at the patrons of the clinic what could be considered intimidating anti-vaccine slogans or rhetoric," she said.

Those actions are illegal under British Columbia's new Access to Services COVID-19 Vaccination Act, passed on Nov. 26. It establishes a 20-metre access zone around hospitals, COVID-19 clinics, and K-12 schools. Within access zones, it is an offence to disrupt or impede access to services.

Cooper said holding up signs and placards within view of people accessing clinics could also be considered illegal under the act.

Cooper said that so far, RCMP are "educating" protesters about the new rules, though punishment for violations can also include arrest and a $2,300 fine.

"Arrest would be a last resort," Cooper said. "In Prince George, we've been very fortunate that our protesters have been peaceful in nature and they do respond to police education quite readily."

Cooper also said police are aware of upcoming vaccine clinic dates and will be sending patrols to ensure the new rules are followed.

Children between five and 11 only recently became eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines in Canada after extensive testing on their safety and efficacy was completed by both Health Canada and Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization, as well as manufacturer Pfizer and other health organizations worldwide.

Eighty-two percent of people 12 and over living in the greater Prince George area have been fully vaccinated, according to data from Northern Health.

Nine days of appointments for children five to 11 in the city from Dec. 6 to 31 have already been fully booked, with more dates now available in the new year.

With files from Akshay Kulkarni

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