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Patience wearing thin in James Bay as protests become a weekly fixture, fill neighbourhood with loud honking

Petition started calling on City of Victoria to enforce noise bylaws
Anti-vaccine mandate protesters in downtown Victoria on Saturday. DARRON STONE, TIMES COLONIST. Feb. 12, 2022

Protesters demonstrating in front of the legislature just want to be heard, but those who live in the area say they’ve heard them loud and clear and it’s time to go home.

The James Bay neighbourhood has been busier — and noisier — of late as people protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates stage weekly protests in front of the legislature.

While the crowds typically stick to the sidewalk area, supporters in a gaggle of trucks and other vehicles go around and around the block, yelling and sounding their horns.

While some stay on the roads around the legislature grounds, others travel farther afield to spread their message — much to the ire of residents.

After enduring large, noisy gatherings for the past three Saturdays in the usually quiet neighbourhood, people’s patience has worn thin.

Steve Mitchell, who moved to the region after living on Quadra Island for 35 years, said Thursday that enough is enough.

“I am tired of it. You have made your point, now move on,” said Mitchell. He said he can hear the honking from his home.

Dave Thompson, a consultant and candidate for Victoria city council, started a petition calling for city noise bylaws to be enforced and tickets to be issued to drivers who violate them, pointing to “trucks and other vehicles repeatedly ­honking their horns, revving their engines and blaring loud music for hours on end.”

City bylaws prohibit making noise in a street or public place “which disturbs or tends to disturb the quiet, peace, rest, enjoyment, comfort or convenience of persons in the neighbourhood or vicinity.”

As of Thursday afternoon, the petition had received close to the 500 signatures it was hoping to garner.

In an interview with CHEK News, Thompson called the noise deafening. “I had earplugs in and it was still painful,” he said. “This is probably the loudest noise we’ve ever heard in Victoria and we have that noise bylaw for a reason and I think the city needs to enforce it.”

Others are wondering when the Victoria Police Department will step in to stop the honking and control the traffic.

“It would be nice if they did something,” said Richard Lang, 68, who lives in a duplex on Simcoe Street and regularly sees — and hears — the vehicles as they drive by.

Mirek Prusa, 77, who immigrated to Canada from Czechoslovakia 50 years ago, believes that politicians have done little in hopes demonstrators would go away on their own. “We don’t understand. You have the law on your side. It should be simple,” he said.

On Thursday, Victoria police issued a statement saying temporary CCTV cameras would be installed again this weekend as part of its efforts to ensure public safety. Safe, peaceful and lawful protest are key Canadian rights, the statement said, but dangerous or unlawful acts would be met with “de-escalation and enforcement,” which could include issuing of violation tickets under the Motor Vehicle Act.

Michael Young, a professor of justice studies at Royal Roads University, said protesters are venting their frustrations at not being heard. “The public has heard a one-way narrative over the last two years,” said Young. “You are seeing a lot of frustration.”

While most Canadians support the right to peaceful protest, communities that have been affected by the protesters are starting to make their displeasure known, both in Ottawa and James Bay, he said. “Protesters are now experiencing a backlash to their actions and are probably asking themselves: ‘Should we stop? Should we keep going?’ That’s a tough one to answer,” said Young, who believes police are in a tough situation and have not acted forcefully for fear of exacerbating the situation.

While Young could not say how long James Bay residents will have to endure the cacophony of noise and gaggle of vehicles going around the block, he predicts the local sympathy protests will die out once the main protest in Ottawa is resolved.

“Everybody had been hoping the protests would just burn out on their own and everybody just go home — but that hasn’t happened yet. But it is the energy from Ottawa that fuels the local protests. When that energy is removed, it won’t be long before the locals go home as well.”

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