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1 year of North Vancouver overpass demonstrations marked with counter-protest

‘It is really disturbing that this kind of messaging has been out here for a year,’ says North Vancouver District Coun. Catherine Pope

On Thursday, a group of provocative demonstrators marked one full year of gathering on a North Vancouver overpass.

Unlike 12 months ago, this week their demonstration was also attended by a colourful contingent of counter protesters, local police and BC RCMP’s Division Liaison Team, a special unit in casual grey uniforms who negotiate with demonstrator groups like this one.

A court order issued in May is still in effect to prohibit actions – including attaching signs, gathering and impeding foot or vehicle traffic – on the Mountain Highway overpass that could cause a safety risk to the public. No arrests related to the injunction have been made.

While some members of the group said they anticipated 50 to 100 supporters to show up for the anniversary calendar date, no more than 30 people were on the overpass on Thursday, including the people there to counter protest.

To the highway traffic passing below, regulars from the group displayed typical banners disparaging the prime minister, and equating sexual orientation and gender ideology to predatory sexual behaviour towards children.

Also in the mix were pro-2SLGBTQIA+ counter-protestors waving the colours of transgender, progress and pride flags. Among them was District of North Vancouver Coun. Catherine Pope, who said she was there to send a strong message that hate is not welcome in the community.

“It is really disturbing that this kind of messaging has been out here for a year, and that they’re able to continue,” she said. “The heart of the issue is that these messages are filled with hate. And that’s not just my opinion, that’s the opinion of hundreds of people who have emailed the District of North Vancouver.”

“They feel threatened by these people, they’re afraid of them. They feel [hated by] them. And the hate message is the thing that’s in question here, and that’s the message about children, and so-called gender ideology … that translates into hate against trans people,” Pope said.

‘We understand the community’s frustration,’ police say

Jane Bradwell, who lives in the City of North Vancouver, has been part of the demonstrator group for the past 12 months, speaking out against what she says are various forms of government overreach.

Over the past few months, the group has received pushback as it started to display signs related to gender ideology and “child sex grooming.” Bradwell, like others in the group, say they’re not hateful.

“I think they misunderstand us,” she said. “We are against gender ideology, which is not a person, which is not a group of people. It’s not anything, it’s a way of thinking. It’s a political program. We’re not against trans people to be adults in their own lives, but keep it away from the children.”

She’s also against pride parades and drag events because they expose children to “inappropriate” subject matter, Bradwell added.

Several police officers were on scene Thursday, watching over and speaking to people on the overpass.

“Our primary goal is to facilitate peaceful, lawful protest … and also public safety,” said Const. Mansoor Sahak of North Vancouver RCMP.

“We’ve always gathered evidence, ensuring that the injunction is followed,” he said, adding that in order for the injunction to be considered breached, all three conditions listed in the court order – in short: attaching signs, gathering and impeding foot or vehicle traffic – would have to be met.

Amid an outpouring of frustration in the community toward the ongoing demonstrations, Sahak said that local police have put significant action and resources into addressing the issue.

“We’ve been here almost every week,” he said. “We’re ready in the event that there’s any type of violence … we’ve had ongoing dialogues with all the parties involved.”

“Unfortunately, we can only enforce what’s in the injunction … we don’t deviate away from that,” he continued. “We understand the community’s frustration, but we have to protect the integrity of the criminal justice system.”

Coun. Pope said, “I honestly can’t understand why the government isn’t being stronger in their language with injunctions.”

“In some way, we all just want these people to go home – they’re hurting our community, and thousands of people in it – and there must be a way that could happen,” she said.