An injunction barring people from blocking access, roadways and doors to the B.C. Legislature has been granted by a judge, just one day before protesters plan to disrupt government operations across Victoria.
The injunction order was granted in B.C. Supreme Court on Thursday in response to an application from Speaker of the House Darryl Plecas.
It follows a contentious demonstration Tuesday that saw dozens of people block the entrances to the legislature in solidarity with the fight against the construction of Coastal GasLink’s natural gas pipeline through traditional Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C.
The order gives the officers who provide security at the legislature the power to arrest and remove anyone who is “interfering, disturbing or disrupting … [the legislature’s] business of and proper functioning,” including on public roads.
It also bars interference with closed-circuit television cameras.
Plan to block provincial operations for a day
The injunction does not cover other government buildings in the Victoria area, where demonstrations have been planned for Friday morning. Activists have said they believe they can effectively shut down the bulk of the provincial civil service for the day, but they’ve promised the protests will be peaceful.
In an email to all B.C. public service employees, the premier’s deputy minister, Don Wright, warned staff about the protests planned for Friday.
He said while protesters have the right to free speech, recent protests have extended beyond peaceful engagement.
“People who merely wanted to access their place of work and provide service to the public of British Columbia were subjected to physical and emotional intimidation, physical blocking of access, and in some instances, physical and emotional abuse,” Wright wrote on Wednesday.
“I find this treatment of those serving the public to be reprehensible and unacceptable.”
Wright said the emotional and physical safety of all public servants is his top priority, and that no staff will be asked to put themselves in a situation where they don’t feel safe.
Workers don’t want the ‘stress’ of protests
Government employees Corbin Benoit and Mercedes Hoelke work for the B.C. Wildfire Service in a building expected to be targeted by demonstrators. They say their office had a meeting to help them prepare to safely respond to crowds at the door.
“They’re saying if we can do work at home, [we should],” said Benoit, adding that employees have access to a wealth of mental health resources.
Hoelke said she “can respect the protest but [she doesn’t] want to have to deal with the stress.”
Stephanie Smith, president of the British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union, says she wants workers to respect the protest lines, but to put safety first.
Brett Harper of the Professional Employees Association says that union is not participating in the demonstrations and is encouraging members to “connect with their supervisor if they encounter a protest at their worksite tomorrow.”
The province’s chief security officer, Paul Stanley, said in a statement that he “cannot comment on the details” of the security plan for Friday.
Friday’s protest is planned for between 8 a.m. and noon PT.