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Parents applaud new B.C. legislation to ban protests outside of schools

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Some parents are welcoming proposed legislation by B.C.’s NDP government that bans protests and disruptions outside of school grounds.

On Wednesday, the province announced a bill that, if passed, would provide police the authority to arrest or issue tickets to anyone disrupting educational activities within 20 metres of school grounds.

Justin Liew, a North Vancouver parent, said he’s in favour of the legislation. Last fall, demonstrations voicing opposition to SOGI 123 – resources to help educators create an inclusive education – occurred outside of his child’s elementary school. 

“I’m pretty happy to see it,” he said. “It was a stressful time at the beginning of the school year having these protests at our daughter's elementary school.”

According to the province, there have been 18 major disruptions documented at B.C. schools since the start of the 2023/24 school year.

“We’ve had people banging on school windows in British Columbia,” said Premier David Eby at Wednesday’s news conference. “It never crossed my mind to be worried that a grown adult would be waiting on the school perimeter to yell at my child about pornographic books, about puberty blockers, about schools brainwashing kids.”

The legislation comes after increasing protests at schools and school boards over SOGI. According to Eby, the bill will create access zones that mirror legislation the province introduced during the pandemic, when hospitals and health-care workers became the target of anti-vaccine protests.

“One disruption is one too many,” said Anne Whitmore, the acting president of Surrey DPAC. “Eighteen is a tremendous amount. This is our students’ learning environment. What we know about learning is that we learn and grow when our brains feel safe, so we need to make sure that that’s preserved.”

Jatinder Bir, president of the Surrey Teachers’ Association, said she’s never seen as many protests as she has over the last year.

“When you see a crowd forming in front of your schools, it doesn’t feel safe – and it’s also very disruptive,” she said.

Bir said the tabled legislation is a good step in addressing these demonstrations.

“Our teachers are being targeted,” she said. “Students are feeling intimidated.”

John Rustad, the B.C. Conservative leader, took issue with the province’s proposed access zones.

“I’m finding it very curious that the government seems to be focused on parents who are concerned about their children in schools,” he said. “The issue is around information that’s being provided within schools which seems to be inappropriate in my opinion. We need to be looking at replacing SOGI – getting rid of it.”

Attorney General Niki Sharma referred to the legislation as nimble, and said it was about striking a balance between freedom of speech and protest.

“We live in a society where the right to peaceful protest and freedom of speech are important parts of our democracy,” said Sharma. “However, if these activities affect the safety and security of our children and our educators, it’s not OK.” 

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