A small group of demonstrators showed up at the B.C. legislature on Saturday to protest a range of measures taken by federal and provincial governments over the past few months.
Primarily, the disjointed group was there to protest what they perceive as unnecessary lockdown measures amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.
However some showed up to express their disapproval of the federal government banning assault-style weapons after the deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history.
Duncan resident Karin Forrest says she originally started began protesting against COVID-19 lockdown measures on the Legislature grounds a few weeks ago, after seeing a similar movement in Surrey.
Photos of last Saturday’s demonstration show around a dozen people standing on the lawn, holding signage, but Forrest says approximately 25 people attended.
“The essence of it is to try and maintain or take back some that have been lost of our rights and freedoms guaranteed under the constitution,” Forrest tells Victoria Buzz in a phone interview.
One of her main issues with measures taken since the start of the pandemic is the possibility of mandatory vaccination once a vaccine is available to prevent COVID-19.
She clarifies that she is not against vaccination, but wants to be able to choose which vaccines she and her daughters have administered.
In particular, Forrest says she and her children do not partake in getting flu shots, based on findings from their own research.
“When this virus first came on the scene and everyone was scared and panicked, that’s a fairly natural response to something new,” says Forrest.
“But then you see the real data that’s coming forward… I don’t think the numbers and data are matching the measures by governments. I think it’s totally overblown and completely unjustified.”
In B.C., the rate of cases and deaths have flattened in recent weeks, as compared to other jurisdictions across North America where case rates continue to rise.
The success in B.C. has been largely attributed to the quick and comprehensive implementation of stay-at-home and physical distancing measures.
To date, COVID-19 has killed over 285,000 people worldwide and infected more than 4.2 million people.
By and large, these restrictions have been followed by British Columbians — including the people protesting against them.
From photos taken of the demonstration on Saturday, and in conversation with Forrest, it is evident that the protesters tried to maintain a distance of six feet or more from each other.
“This group is just a bunch of random people, so we don’t all have the same agenda or principles,” says Forrest.
“Myself, I’m still trying to be very respectful within society. If people are afraid and would like to distance, I’m not about to infringe on their rights. We’re still lawful and respectful.”
She admits, though, that she has not been following all of the distancing and isolation orders in place, largely because her 12-year-old daughter requires one-on-one supports.
“I’m a single parent and have a 12 year old who has some pretty difficult struggles. As a result of restrictions, she’s lost a lot of her supports, all of which are one-on-one. So I’ve been unable to just have her completely isolated at home,” says Forrest.
Regardless, she says she respects Dr. Bonnie Henry and believes the provincial health officer is “doing the absolute best that she can”, but remains skeptical of the decision making process.
“I don’t know how much freedom she has in the decisions she makes or how much direction she’s pressured to take from other influences. I would question that,” she adds.
Unlike other provinces, British Columbia’s pandemic response has been driven by Dr. Bonnie Henry and the Ministry of Health, with the Premier taking a back seat.
The restrictions currently in place were implemented through the public health emergency which gave Dr. Henry the power to speak orders into law, at least temporarily.
Other steps taken by the provincial government to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 transmission were taken in consultation with the Ministry of Health.
Now that the curve has flattened, the province is poised to enter the next phase of their reopening plan, which provides guidelines for safely increasing economic and social activity.