Two police officers escorted Faye Doiron and Randy Longaphie as they left Toronto General Hospital on Monday, helping the couple push their way through a crowd of protesters denouncing the pandemic measures.
Doiron, who came to Toronto from Prince Edward Island to await a lung transplant, was leaving after a physical therapy session at the hospital, with Longaphie, his cousin, pushing her wheelchair.
The crowd of largely unmasked protesters slowly but peacefully parted to let them pass as one officer led the way and another walked behind them.
“It’s terrifying,” Doiron said. “The doctors told me that if he ever contracted COVID, he would not make it.”
Dozens of protesters attended the rally on Monday, many of them condemning Ontario’s proof-of-vaccination system, which is scheduled to go into effect next week. A larger rally was also held Monday afternoon in front of the Ontario legislature.
The event was one of several expected in Canada on Monday. An organization calling itself Canadian Frontline Nurses posted notices of “silent vigils” to be held in multiple communities, which it said were intended to criticize public health measures put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.
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Planned locations included the Winnipeg Health Sciences Center and the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Center in Halifax.
Organizers said they wanted to take a position against what they call “tyrannical measures and government overreach,” but added that they were not encouraging nurses to leave their shifts or abandon patients.
In Montreal, protesters demonstrated at the Glen site of the McGill University Hospital Center, some of them holding signs questioning the use of COVID-19 vaccines. Others carried signs opposing the rules imposed on healthcare workers.
Healthcare workers in Quebec who are in contact with patients for more than 15 minutes at a time must be fully vaccinated by October 15. The Health Department has said that workers who are not fully vaccinated by then will be reassigned, if possible, or suspended without pay.
Roughly two dozen protesters gathered on the sidewalk in front of the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Center in Halifax on Monday, many of them expressing concern about the vaccination test system announced by health officials in that province last week. last, which will take effect in October. .4.
‘It’s scary’: Police are present as pandemic protesters picket hospitals # COVID19 #VaccinePassport
Police officers wearing yellow vests controlled a crowd of protesters at Calgary’s Foothills Medical Center on Monday afternoon, ensuring patients and staff could enter the facility safely.
Dozens of people demonstrating against public health restrictions, particularly vaccine passports, huddled around a corner. Some held signs that read “medical vaccine = medical tyranny” and “lockdowns are a crime against humanity,” while a group of counter-protesters held up a sign that read “we’re with AHS (Alberta Health Services).”
Sparky Johnson, one of the protesters at the Queen’s Park event in Toronto, said she was a member of Take Action Canada, a group that opposes mandatory vaccination.
“This is my body and I can choose what to put on it,” he said.
Toronto police said there were no reports that hospital staff or patients have been blocked from accessing Toronto General Hospital as part of the protests, and that there were no interruptions in hospital services.
However, the University Health Network, which runs Toronto General Hospital, said such protests are daunting for staff.
“Seeing protests in front of hospitals is demoralizing for everyone who works here, but particularly for the staff who have cared for people dying from COVID-19, often without their entire family and loved ones around,” said the hospital network in a statement Monday.
That sentiment was shared by some doctors who were outside the hospital as the protest began.
Dr. Andrew Boozary, University Health Network executive director of social medicine, said the event “feels like a moral punch” for those in a healthcare system already dealing with burnout due to the pandemic.
“I think we have to remind ourselves that this is a very small and vocal minority,” Boozary said.
Some high-ranking Ontario politicians and prominent healthcare organizations had issued warnings in anticipation of the events.
Ontario Prime Minister Doug Ford described these events as “selfish, cowardly and reckless” in a tweet on Sunday.
The Ontario Registered Nurses Association and the Ontario Medical Association issued a joint statement “strongly condemning” planned outages and calling for designated safe zones around health care facilities to protect staff and patients, a proposal that the new Democrats from the province have also presented.
Toronto Mayor John Tory condemned the planned protests for some city hospitals, adding that he had been in contact with the local police chief about the events and received assurances that staff would be protected and patients would be able to access. buildings.
On the outskirts of Vancouver City Hall, police estimated that a crowd of about 400 gathered to protest vaccines and vaccine passports, which went into effect in British Columbia on Monday. Some carried signs that read “My body, my choice.”
They later began marching downtown toward the British Columbia Supreme Court as police diverted traffic.
On Monday it was announced that all healthcare workers and volunteers in BC will soon have to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Provincial health official Dr. Bonnie Henry said hospitals are under pressure from people not being vaccinated.
“Unfortunately, the decision not to get vaccinated is affecting our families and communities throughout the province,” he said.
Victoria police said a man was arrested for assault during a protest in the BC legislature.
They say that while protests in the city focused on the legislature, a square adjacent to the city hall and some media outlets, officers provided routine patrols to the Royal Jubilee Hospital and health care facilities.
Victoria police say the man was arrested after a person was assaulted by being doused with a hot liquid. The alleged victim refused to receive medical treatment, said the police, who are continuing the investigation. No charges have been filed.
Some federal party leaders also addressed planned demonstrations while in meetings.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau promised to introduce legislation that would make it a crime to obstruct access to any building that provides health care, or to intimidate or threaten health workers in the performance of their duties, as well as any patient receiving such care. .
“It is not right for the people charged with keeping us safe and alive during this pandemic to be exposed to hatred, violence, fear and intimidation,” he said at an event in Vancouver.
Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said peaceful protest is one thing, and harassment of people accessing and working in healthcare is another.
“This type of harassment and protest in front of hospitals is completely unacceptable,” he said during a campaign rally in Ottawa.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said it is wrong to protest in hospitals.
“No healthcare worker, no patient, no one seeking medical care should be limited or have a barrier to getting the care they need,” he said while campaigning in Sioux Lookout, Ontario.
Past protests have focused both on public health measures and the prospect of vaccination test systems that would limit access to many public settings for those who have not been immunized against COVID-19.
Ontario’s system is scheduled to launch on September 22.
Quebec launched earlier this month, Manitoba began issuing vaccine cards in June, and both Nova Scotia and Yukon have said vaccination test systems are in the works.
—With files from Alanna Smith in Calgary, Danielle Edwards in Halifax, Jacob Serebrin in Montreal, Allison Jones in Toronto, and Hina Alam in Vancouver.
This Canadian Press report was first published on September 13, 2021.