VICTORIA - The British Columbia government has introduced legislation that it says would prevent "disruptive behaviour" from affecting schools and health-care facilities.
The Ministry of the Attorney General says the legislation would establish 20-metre zones around hospitals, schools and COVID-19 vaccination and test centres, making it an offence to impede access to the facilities and their services.
The ministry says in a statement on Monday that it would also be an offence to act in a way that could cause service users or providers to be concerned for their physical or mental safety within the access zones.
Premier John Horgan says in the statement that people protesting COVID-19 rules in recent months have blocked access to health-care facilities and schools, and while everyone has a right to protest, such interference is unacceptable.
Attorney General David Eby says the act developed in partnership with the Ministry of Public Safety would give police the power to make arrests, with potential imprisonment of up to six months, or to issue violation tickets of up to $2,000.
The legislation, which has yet to be passed, would be in place until July 1, 2023, though the province says it may be repealed earlier if it's no longer required.
The goal is to preserve access to key services while preventing "an atmosphere of intimidation" for workers and the public, Eby told a news conference on Monday.
Health workers, children and teachers "deserve to feel safe when they go to work or school but we've seen a number of protests recently where they've been the target of anger and abuse," Public Safety Ministry Mike Farnworth says in a statement.
"This new measure will allow law enforcement to act if an individual or group continues to put others at risk through their thoughtless and selfish actions."