A convoy of cross-country anti-mandate protestors is set to arrive in Victoria next week, just days after BC health officials announced the easing of COVID-19 mandates.
“We’re going to be occupying that area for two to three months,” said James Bauder, in a video posted last Thursday from Mattawa, Ontario.
Bauder, one of the founders of the anti-mandate group Canada Unity, says a parade of anywhere from 500 to 1,000 vehicles will begin flooding the Capital Region starting Monday.
His comments came a week before BC health officials announced they’d be repealing many remaining mandates, including face mask and BC Vaccine Card requirements.
City council’s latest committee of the whole saw VicPD Chief Del Manak in attendance, saying he’s “hopeful” the convoy’s momentum will dissipate “given the latest revision and changes to the provincial health orders that have been relaxed.”
“But it remains to be seen,” Manak said Thursday, noting VicPD is taking steps to prepare, as officers work to keep protests “safe, peaceful and lawful.”
“In light of the latest convoy and the comments made by a particular organizer to try to rally trucks to come to the BC Legislature, we are well aware of this individual, the organizer, and we are working in gathering much needed changing intelligence as to what may transpire,” he said.
“And we will have an operations plan that is able to deal with the situation as it comes forward through Victoria.”
For the past six weeks, anti-mandate protests have been happening along Belleville Street, as participants also drive and march around town. “Week seven is coming up this Saturday,” Manak noted.
In a video posted to VicPD’s social media channels, Manak said officers are well aware of community concerns regarding upcoming potential protests.
“As [Public Safety Minister Mike] Farnworth has stated, legal protests in Canada are a part of our free and democratic society. Occupation is not,” he said in the video. “I want to make it very clear that any dangerous acts or unlawful activity will be met with de-escalation and enforcement.”
— Victoria Police (@vicpdcanada) March 10, 2022
The Victoria Downtown Residents Association is also voicing concerns, writing a letter to city council urging they take “all possible proactive steps to prepare” and “ensure that an unlawful occupation of our streets does not occur.”
“We are also concerned about statements made by the convoy organizer threatening to occupy our lovely city for an extended period of time,” association president Sandra Severs wrote.
VicPD Chief Manak says he understands anti-mandate protests have been “extremely disruptive for the residents,” given the “excessive honking, frequency of honking and period of time that this has impacted individuals.”
“I do appreciate the City of Victoria’s acknowledgement to expedite processes to allow us to have greater tools at our disposal when it comes to writing tickets,” he said.
Last month, the city took aim at those who unlawfully honk their horns or use airhorns, passing a motion that speeds up the ticketing process and allows police to issue violators a $125 fine, reduced to $75 if paid within 30 days.
According to Manak, VicPD has been conducting enforcement and writing tickets for excessive noise and other infractions. “As soon as they are infringing upon the rights of others and are in violation of the Motor Vehicle Act, then we will look at every single case,” he said.
However, Manak says officers are not writing a ticket in every instance, “and nor do we have the resources to do that.”
“It’s about discretion,” he added.