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‘Justifiable infringement’: Lawyer weighs in on City of Kelowna attempt to stop freedom rallies

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So-called freedom rallies have been an almost weekly occurrence at Kelowna’s Stuart Park since the onset of the pandemic with public health restrictions,  including vaccine mandates, at the forefront.

While the protest size has dwindled, the rallies continue without any permits from the city – a permit is required for any event being held in a public space.

“There have been no permits applied for in any of these cases,” said Kevin Mead, bylaw services manager with the City of Kelowna.

“There’s been a number of events that have been impeded with everything from fundraisers to the children in the thriller events on Halloween,” Mead said.

And after two and a half years of civil disobedience and complaints from the public, the city has had enough.

The city has filed a petition for a court-ordered injunction to put an end to the unpermitted rallies at the park once and for all.

The injunction would authorize RCMP to arrest and remove protesters who are contravening bylaws by using downtown parks without written permission from the city.

“It allows us to work with our enforcement partners to enforce the order that will come from the courts,” Mead said.

Global News contacted individuals who participated in past rallies but didn’t hear back by time of publication.

Vancouver lawyer Kyla Lee did weigh in though.

“The city is clearly taking this step as a matter of last resort. There’s been significant leeway given to people as part of their freedom convoy protesting groups,” Lee said.  “At some point, the public spaces have to be used by other members of the public as well.”

Lee added that a lot of what’s being protested doesn’t affect the public anymore.

“Although you do have a right to freedom of expression, those rights can be limited where it is reasonable to impose limitations on the rights because a lot of what’s being protested by the freedom convoy right now isn’t actually affecting people anymore. There are no mandates. There are no mask rules. You can travel freely throughout the country.”

While the BC Civil Liberties Association wasn’t available for comment on how such an injunction infringes on people’s rights and freedoms, Lee said she believes the infringement, if there is one, is justifiable in this case.

“I see this as a justifiable infringement,” Lee said. “These people have had the opportunity to air their grievances for two years now, without an injunction being sought and because they’re not being enjoined from protesting altogether, but just from using certain spaces to protest, it is a limited infringement of their rights, so it is likely justified given the circumstances in our current day.”

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