The RCMP and School District 53 Board of Education have condemned the convoy protesters who confronted students outside of Southern Okanagan Secondary School on Friday, Feb. 11.
One protester who is identifiable by her distinctive tattoos, was filmed by a student, hurling racist abuse against an Indo-Canadian student and allegedly spitting on another student. The whole situation remains under investigation, and it has not yet been determined whether criminal charges will be warranted, said Oliver RCMP.
A statement from the SD53 board chair Rob Zandee said the district does not condone any protests that target children and youth or disrupt school proceedings, and that the protester had been reported for her actions to the RCMP.
“While everyone has the right to protest, interfering with students trying to leave for their weekend is unacceptable,” reads Zandee’s statement. “We would appreciate any further protests avoid our schools.”
A second protest by supporters of the so-called “Freedom Convoy” also occurred outside the Osoyoos Secondary School that day.
No teachers or members of the RCMP are visible in the video taken at SOSS, which ends with students shouting back that she was “literally arguing with children.”
An officer did attend the school according to Sgt. Don Wrigglesworth, spokesperson for the Oliver RCMP detachment. He also said that the protesters had been informed to stay off school grounds and that the video is believed to have taken place after the constable had left.
According to the RCMP, the school did not call them about the protest.
“Bottom line is that there are adults in our community with their own agenda and on the surface, it is very unsettling and appears to have crossed a number of lines. It is disconcerting that these adults would somehow think that their actions and viewpoints should be pressed upon children, or even expressed at all.”
“The safety of children at school is very important and a place of learning appears to have been violated,” said Wrigglesworth. “We will continue to liaise with the school administration, Oliver mayor and council, and leaders of our Indo-Canadian and First Nations Community.”
In November, the provincial government passed the Access to Services (COVID-19) Act, which expressly sets out a 20-meter bubble around protected facilities including schools which makes it a crime to “intimidate or attempt to intimidate an individual or otherwise do or say anything that could reasonably be expected to cause an individual concern for the individual’s physical or mental safety.”
The bill was put forward following incidents of protesters blocking access to hospitals, and incidents of protesters showing up at schools in Salmon Arm.
The Oliver RCMP received no calls from the school administration, teachers or students on the day of.
Requests for comment from the Southern Okanagan Secondary School principal about how the school handled the situation were not answered prior to publishing.
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