Earlier this week, the Saanich Police were informed by community members of their intention to hold a protest at the intersection of Patricia Bay Highway (Highway #17) and Sayward Road in Saanich. Part of the organizers’ intention was to block traffic on the highway for several hours on Saturday November 25th to draw attention to their cause.
Over several days, police liaison officers engaged with the protest organizers to discuss alternatives to their intended action of blocking the highway and other ways to ensure a safe, lawful, and peaceful protest. Having pedestrians on a highway is inherently dangerous both for the public and the police. Moreover, highways must remain clear for the safe passage of life safety services (police, fire, ambulance) and access to other critical transportation infrastructure such as airports and ferries. Protest organizers were informed that it is a Criminal Code offence to block or obstruct a highway [Intimidation, s. 423(1)(g)] and/or to interfere with the lawful use, enjoyment, or operation of property [Mischief, s. 430(1)]. Organizers acknowledged the outreach and engagement with police, but remained committed to their plan to block the highway.
In order to minimize the risk of harm to any person involved in or affected by this event, and prevent disruptions to critical transportation infrastructure, the Saanich Police and members of the Greater Victoria Public Safety Unit established a presence on Patricia Bay Highway in Saanich with the intention of providing safe areas and lawful alternatives for protesters to assemble and peacefully exercise their Charter Rights.
“The police play a critical public safety role in helping our community members exercise their Charter Rights and Freedoms in a safe and peaceful manner. We must also be prepared to respond swiftly and effectively to criminal acts that would interfere with our ability to deliver emergency services and negatively impact our communities across the region. We are grateful for the support of our RCMP and Municipal Police partners in preparing for this event” said Deputy Chief Constable Robert Warren.
“We welcome every opportunity to engage with the public in the development and delivery of public safety services, and we encourage early and ongoing discussions about safe and lawful protests that meet the needs of our community” said Sergeant Damian Kowalewich.