A group of four women stood outside Tansor Elementary School Monday morning to protest vaccines for children.
Two on each side of the crosswalk leading up to the school waved signs saying “protect the children” to express their displeasure with COVID-19 vaccines for children aged five to 11 as the schoolchildren were arriving to begin their classes for the day.
“There were lots of heated parents outside Tansor this morning,” said one parent, who asked not to be named.
Later in the day, school principal Updesh Cheema sent a note home to families explaining what had happened.
“Their messaging was: no vaccines for children,” said Cheema’s letter. “We all want students, staff and families to feel safe when they come to school. The District office was notified and security and police were dispatched to our site. I was out on supervision with extra staff to make sure that students and families could get by the protestors safely.”
Cheema also acknowledged the affect the incident could have on the students.
“I know this may have caused anxiety and confusion for our students and we took time this morning with the students to talk about the situation,” wrote the principal. “As a school community we need to continue to work together to ensure that our students, your children, feel safe coming to school. I encourage all of you not to engage with the protestors, if they happen to appear again.”
Cheema said the Cowichan Valley School District is making plans to have in place should protestors return to district schools.
Cowichan Valley School District spokesman Mike Russell called the incident “disappointing.”
“It is incredibly disappointing that protestors are purposefully targeting our schools. A school is a safe place for students and to have that disrupted by adults who are pushing their own agenda can cause stress, fear, and anxiety in our students,” Russell said. “We are grateful that the ‘Bubble Zone’ legislation recently passed and that the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP were so responsive to our call. We will continue to rely on our RCMP partners if further protests disrupt our schools.”
Earlier this month the province created 20-metre protection zones around schools, hospitals, COVID-19 test and vaccination sites and other facilities. Within those zones it is now an offence to impede access or disrupt services in any way.
“Over the last few months, we’ve seen a small number of people protesting against COVID-19 protective measures by blocking access to health-care facilities and schools,” Horgan said Nov. 15. “While everyone has a right to protest, interfering with patients accessing hospital care or with kids trying to get to school is completely unacceptable. This legislation will help to keep these important facilities secure and ensure the safety of both those who use them and those who work in them.”
BC RCMP spokesperson Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet confirmed police attended.
“Frontline officers from the North Cowichan RCMP detachment were called to a report of a demonstration outside the school at about 8:25 a.m. [Monday] morning, however by the time police arrived, all but two people had departed. The officer asked them to ensure the demonstration did not impede people’s access to or from the school, and the demonstrators were co-operative.”