Grand Forks’ Aquatic Centre is operated by the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary. Photo courtesy of Melina Van Hoogevest

Grand Forks’ Aquatic Centre is operated by the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary. Photo courtesy of Melina Van Hoogevest

Grand Forks police called to pool stand-off over COVID-19 mandate

A group of parents and children held out for around an hour before leaving peacefully

Grand Forks RCMP attended a disturbance at the aquatic centre Thursday, Feb. 3, after police and staff said four or five adults demanded to be let into the pool with their children without showing proof of vaccination against COVID-19.

Sgt. Darryl Peppler said aquatic centre staff phoned police at around 5 p.m., shortly after some in the group became “disruptive.”

Melina Van Hoogevest, program supervisor at the pool, later clarified that five people in the group came into the pool area after they were refused entry. Two women brought one child each into the pool, while a young woman entered the sauna. Two men were on their way to join them when they were turned back by a lifeguard.

Some of the intruders threw money onto the front desk as they barged into the pool. Staff did not take their money, handing back the tossed cash when the intruders left the pool at a lifeguard’s request, according to Van Hoogevest.

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Mounties stayed at the scene for around 45 minutes, warning the adults they could be fined if they refused to leave the centre.

A video taken by someone in the group and later posted to Facebook shows a woman insisting that the province’s latest health order is unlawful and comparing the unvaccinated to downtrodden minorities.

Pool manager Paul Keys is shown explaining that the most recent public health order under the Quarantine Act requires that adults and kids over 12 show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 before entering the pool. He also pointed out that no one in the group was wearing a face mask, also required by the order.

There are exemptions for competing athletes under 22 and for children on school field trips. The same applies for home-schooled children, provided their parents book space in the pool.

Those with medical exemptions issued by the province don’t need to be vaccinated to access Grand Forks and district recreation facilities, including the pool, he said.

“While we appreciate that you don’t agree with the provincial health order or the rules that we’ve been asked to enforce, I’m afraid that, today, there’s not much that we can do for you. Those are the rules,” he told the group.

Peppler said the group eventually left peacefully and that Mounties didn’t hand out any tickets.

“They wanted to be heard and we let them have their say. We explained what the provincial health restrictions are and what the potential consequences could be and they peacefully dispersed,” he said.

Keys said the group had been in the pool lobby for about an hour before they left.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story reported that at least one person had entered the pool.



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