Chantal Couture (second from the right) stands with Pro-Choice Kelowna members south of Rose Avenue on Pandosy Street, during the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019. (David Venn - Kelowna Capital News)

Right to Life Society removed from Okanagan hospital for violating harassment law

Police received multiple complaints about the Tuesday rallies and removed the pro-lifers

  • Sep. 2, 2019 9:30 a.m.

For the Record —

Kelowna Right to Life Society (KRLS) protesters were found to be breaking a provincial law by interfering with sidewalk access by protesting, an offence contrary to Section 2 of the Abortion Services Act (ASSA).

By protesters being within the sidewalk access, some individuals found it to be harassing and called RCMP.

According to Cst. Leslie Smith, several reports were made to police about pro-life protesters violating section 2. Officers attended and discovered there was validity to the reports.

However, KRLS did not verbally or physically harass anyone while protesting and were cooperative when asked to move by RCMP.

No arrests were made.

———————————

Kelowna Right to Life Society (KRLS) protesters were found to be breaking a provincial law by harassing patients, staff and pro-choice supporters outside of Kelowna General Hospital facilities, according to RCMP.

After almost two decades of occupying the sidewalk space near the hospital every Tuesday, the pro-life group was forced, by police, to stand on Pandosy Street, south of Rose Avenue to make sure people have safe access to health care facilities.

“Upon attending the location, some protesters were found to be committing an offence contrary to Section 2 of the Abortion Services Act (ASSA),” Kelowna RCMP Cst. Lesley Smith said.

Section two of the AASA states that while in an access zone, a person must not interfere with sidewalk access by protesting or tormenting people, or physically interfering or intimidating a service provider or patient, according to B.C. legislation.

“Kelowna RCMP were able to keep the peace and direct the protesters to a better-suited location where they could continue their right to protest but would not be committing an offence,” Cst. Smith said. “The group remained respectful and cooperative and no arrests were made.”

READ MORE: Cineplex sticks by decision to screen anti-abortion film ‘Unplanned’

Kathy Hein, board member for the KRLS, said they were moved because of a ‘bubble zone law’ where the “hospital has the authority to tell you to go at least 10 metres away from their property line.”

However, a representative from Interior Health said the institution had nothing to do with the incident, and that it was an RCMP-enforced initiative.

“Interior Health has a medical responsibility to provide service and ensure that patients who make this choice have reasonable access to the service,” IH communications officer Susan Duncan said. “IH respects the rights of individuals to express their opinions and that includes any lawful rallies or protests.”

READ MORE: Kelowna man allegedly bear-sprays victim, starts random bar fights

RCMP, protesters and IH said they aren’t exactly sure of the dates the KRLS were moved, but said it was around six weeks ago.

Pro-Choice Kelowna (PCK) member Chantal Couture said herself and her fellow protesters joined the Tuesday rallies about three months ago and said their group was instrumental to the pro-lifers’ relocation.

“They’re on that side of the street because we came here,” Couture said.

She added that members from the KRLS would commonly call pro-choice protesters and patients “sluts.”

Marlon Bartram, executive director of KRLS, said they were harassed, being sworn at and slandered.

“We have had a good relationship with the hospital and never caused any issues, for many years this restriction was not enforced,” he said.

Both Bartram and Hein said it was the “somewhat raucous” group of pro-choice supporters that ultimately forced KRLS to be moved farther away from the hospital entrances.

“They (pro-choicers) came in great big hoards and made a big noise and got a lot of attention, so the hospital decided that you people have to move — which was us,” Hein said.

READ MORE: Judge: Mississippi 6-week abortion ban ‘smacks of defiance’



David Venn
Reporter, Kelowna Capital News
Email me at david.venn@kelownacapnews.com
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