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B.C. to establish protest-free buffer zones around K-12 schools

Attorney-General Niki Sharma tabled promised legislation April 10
An officer asks protesters to step off the road at an anti-SOGI 123 rally in Chilliwack on Oct. 10. There has been a surge of protests in the Fraser Valley recently. The provincial government Wednesday tabled legislation to create buffer zones around schools. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

New legislation promises to prohibit protests around schools.

Premier David Eby said Wednesday (April 10) that the legislation builds on legislation that protected health care workers from protesters against COVID-19 measures.

“We need to make sure that our schools are safe for everyone,” he said. “There is a small minority of people that believe that school librarians and teachers are the major threats to our children,” he added.

The legislation allows cabinet to establish what some call ‘bubble-zones’ of 20 metres within schools, where individuals cannot “intimidate or attempt to intimidate” persons or “otherwise do or say anything” that could “reasonably be expected to cause concern” for the “physical or mental safety” of persons. Individuals can also not physically block access from and to schools or disrupt school lessons or extracurricular activities.

Violators can be arrested.

The legislation includes limited exceptions for students and school staff and does not prohibit picketing.

Government had signalled the legislation during the Throne Speech in February. “New legislation will be tabled to protect schools and kids from disruptive protests,” it reads.

It comes after a series of protests around schools against Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity 123 programming with Eby citing close to 20 such incidents during his remarks.

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Attorney-General Niki Sharma tabled the legislation Wednesday (April 10). “These prohibitions are designed to protect students and staff from the negative impacts of protests that have unfortunately become an increasing problem at our K-12 schools,” Sharma said.

She added that the legislation is not about restricting free speech. “Everyone has the right to peaceful protests,” she said. “But just because you have the right to protests doesn’t mean you have the right to intimidate or harass.”

The legislation does not automatically establish these limits, but gives cabinet the power to do so when necessary.

“The way we approached the construction of the legislation was to make sure we were nimble enough to respond…but also be able to adjust over time,” she said. She added that the legislation is trying to strike a balance between protecting constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech with preventing harassment.

The legislation is set to expire no later than July 1, 2026.

Conservative Party of B.C. Leader John Rustad accused the B.C. NDP of a double-standard in allowing protests critical of Israel to go forward while focusing on “parents who are concerned about their children in schools” when asked about the legislation.

“There is no hate in that (questioning SOGI-123),” he said. “The issue is around parental rights and parents being involved with their children’s education, issues around information that’s being provided within schools, which seems to be in appropriate in my opinion.”

He added that he would replace SOGI-123 with anti-bullying initiatives.

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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