A live election debate in Dawson Creek, B.C., that was supposed to take place Tuesday night has been cancelled over safety concerns amid rising conflict over COVID-19 mandates.
Event organizer Kathleen Connolly, the executive director of the Dawson Creek and District Chamber of Commerce, said the risk was too great.
“As we sort of watched the tone of our protests escalate.… We just did not want to put our candidates at risk. We did not want to put the venue at risk,” Connolly told CBC News.
Dawson Creek has one of the highest rates of COVID infection in B.C., and one of the lowest vaccination rates. Earlier in the pandemic, the northeastern B.C. community of nearly 13,000 made headlines after two people were charged with assault following an altercation over wearing face masks at a Walmart.
There has been much furor in the community over the latest provincial COVID-19 public health orders — including the introduction of the B.C. vaccine card and requirements to show proof of vaccination at restaurants, gyms, theatres and other non-essential activities.
One person was arrested at a protest last Thursday in front of city hall.
Connolly said the local MLA and some other elected officials and their families were getting threatening messages.
The hostility is not isolated to northern B.C. On a national level, some federal election campaign events have been met with protests. Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was pelted with gravel at a protest in London, Ont., on Monday and had to cancel an appearance earlier in the campaign due to angry crowds.
Connolly says nothing like this has happened in her ten years of organizing multiple debates for the community at the municipal, provincial and federal level.
“I just find it really heartbreaking to be honest,” Connolly said. “It’s so sad to see our communities being torn apart over the passport conversation and the COVID conversation.”
Instead of the debate, videos of each candidate will be posted online.
The federal election takes place on Sept. 20, 2021.