BC Premier John Horgan reminded protesters in the province to take precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19 during his weekly address in Victoria.
Protests against racism and police violence have taken place in Victoria and Vancouver in solidarity with the protests in the U.S. following the death of George Floyd, a Black man. There have been other demonstrations across Canada and around the world.
The three other Minneapolis police officers involved in the arrest that led to the death of Floyd on May 25 are now being charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao had been fired along with Derek Chauvin, who was seen on video pressing his knee into the black man’s neck for several minutes.
Chauvin was originally charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, but those counts are now upgraded to a charge of second-degree murder.
Horgan said Wednesday he is “horrified” by the events in the U.S. this week but also acknowledged there is a long history of racism in B.C. that continues today.
“I encourage people to have their voices be heard but also please, please abide by the directions that Dr. Henry has put in place. Try to stay a good distance away from your fellow protesters, wear a mask if at possible,” Horgan said.
“If you’re going to be chanting, by all means, make sure you’re covering yourself up so you’re not potentially infecting other people.”
Horgan said he is hopeful any future Black Lives Matter protests will be peaceful but law enforcement will take action if not.
According to Horgan, protests are not considered scheduled compared to weddings or drive-in theatres, for example, where a public health order limiting gatherings to 50 people or fewer are in place.
“Free association and the ability to speak about matters in the public square is a fundamental right,” Horgan said.
“I’ve talked to Dr. Henry and Minister Dix about this. It’s a challenge. I absolutely understand how the public would go ‘what’s the difference’ but there’s a big difference,” Horgan said.
Horgan said protesters need to be responsible to themselves and the people around them during the pandemic.
“I think we’ll get out of this stronger than we did coming in but I do understand the motivation and desire for people to have their voices heard in this most extraordinary time in our world history.”
Horgan also spoke on Wednesday about students returning to school this week, saying B.C. will continue to ensure schools are safe.
And Horgan said this year could be a record-breaking summer for domestic tourism as B.C. residents stay home but noted that international travel remains a huge challenge.
“We have had success in B.C. because we have done this together,” Horgan said, adding he understands people are eager to book summer plans but “we can’t flick a switch and get back to normal.”
As for Stage 3 of B.C.’s Restart Plan, Horgan said that could come in mid June but he also doesn’t want to give false hope. He says B.C. must continue to monitor case numbers before continuing to reopen parts of the economy.
He also said he is “intrigued” by the idea of a four-day work week and “nothing should be off the table” in the aftermath of a pandemic.
You can watch Horgan’s weekly address on the CHEK News Facebook page and Youtube channel.
Live at 1:30 PT: B.C. Premier John Horgan makes a live address on June 3, 2020 regarding the province's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The premier spoke from the Parliament Buildings in Victoria, taking questions from the media by phone.
Last week, Horgan announced that B.C. is in its longest state of emergency in its history, as he extended it by an additional two weeks, 1o weeks total.
Meanwhile, Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix will not be doing a news conference Wednesday afternoon, providing a written statement instead.
More to come
With files from The Canadian Press and CBC