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 Kelowna 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 Kelowna RCMP.

After almost two decades of standing on the sidewalk across from the hospital entrance every Tuesday, the pro-life group was forced, by police, to stand farther down Pandosy Street, south of Rose Avenue, to make sure people have safe access to KGH.

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

Section two of the act states 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.

“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,” Smith said.

“The group remained respectful and co-operative 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 her group’s members were moved because of what is called a “bubble zone” law, in which the hospital has the authority to “tell you to go at least 10 metres away from their property line.”

However, a representative of Interior Health said Kelowna General Hospital had nothing to do with the incident, calling it 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

Neither the RCMP, protesters or IH were sure exactly when the KRLS were moved to their new location, but said it was around six weeks ago.

Pro-Choice Kelowna member Chantal Couture said she and other pro-choice supporters started showing up at the Tuesday vigils about three months ago, and claimed her group was instrumental in having the pro-life protesters relocated.

“They’re on that side of (Rose Avenue) because we came here,” Couture said.

Both groups have accused the other of harrasment.

“We have had a good relationship with the hospital and never caused any issues,” Marlon Brtram, executive director of the Kelowna Right to Life Society.“For many years this restriction was not enforced.”

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

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

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