B.C. Premier John Horgan says the occupation of Victoria by a convoy of anti-vaccine, anti-mask protesters from elsewhere in Canada will not be tolerated.
“Give your head a shake — find a better way to take your energies and put it to positive outcomes,” said Horgan during a media availability at the B.C. legislature on Friday. “Goodness me, get a hobby.”
James Bauder, one of the founders of the “freedom convoy” that occupied Ottawa for weeks, has said in a video posted to social media that the convoy plans to visit B.C.'s capital and occupy it for months. According to the group’s website, the convoy is set to arrive in the Vancouver area by March 21.
“We are spending an awful lot of time with a small group of people who seem to have nothing better to do with their time but to drive around in circles honking their horns,” said Horgan. “I wish they’d take some time to watch television and see the evening news about real tragedies and real disruptions in freedom that are going on in Europe right now.
“My appeal to those who think there’s some benefit to gathering and driving in a circle and making life miserable for people or camping here at the legislature, you’re only disrupting the lives of fellow citizens.”
People can disagree with the government’s course of action and send letters and protest, “but then you need to go home,” said Horgan.
B.C.’s premier said people across the country learned from the three-week occupation in Ottawa what happens “when you try to be polite and say please go home.” The occupation began at the end of January and ended after the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act.
“I know that law enforcement in Victoria, reinforced if necessary, is going to encourage people to make their point and then disperse,” said Horgan. “I don’t want to discourage anyone from making their point. But I absolutely want to discourage them from disrupting the lives of their fellow citizens. Your freedom is not greater than anyone else’s.”
Based on information from Victoria police, the premier said he believes “there will be no occupation in Victoria.”
B.C. was targeted by the group as one of the last jurisdictions to still have vaccine and indoor mask requirements, and it’s unclear whether the elimination of the mask mandate, and plans for the B.C. Vaccine Card showing proof of vaccination to expire April 8, will affect the convoy.
On Thursday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced masks would no longer be required in most indoor public spaces starting Friday, although they must still be worn in K-12 schools until after spring break, along with physicians’ offices and other health-care settings.
With 91 per cent of people age 12 and older in B.C. fully vaccinated, those protesting masks and vaccines represent a fraction of the population and get way more attention than they deserve, Horgan said.
The premier said given his immune-compromised status, he’ll continue to wear his face covering in public.
Horgan completed the last of 35 radiation sessions in late January following surgery for throat cancer.
Earlier in the day, Horgan told CFAX host Al Ferraby that he has no patience for convoy protesters.
If people in trucks and other vehicles want to come to Victoria to protest health measures by honking their horns, “then I feel really sad for you,” he said.
“Turn on your television and look at what’s happening in Ukraine right now, go on the internet and do some research on the profound impacts of inequality in our societies around the world and then maybe you have something to get excited about.”
The premier said he wants to focus how to assist the people of Ukraine, how to lift people out of poverty in B.C. and how to stabilize the economy.
“If people want to drive around and honk their horns, then fill your boots,” said Horgan. “And at $2 a litre [for gas] that’s not only bad judgment, that’s stupidity.”
B.C.’s solicitor general Mike Farnworth said earlier this week that legal protest is part of a free and democratic society, but occupations are not.