A small group of nurses, part of a national organization called Canadian Frontline Nurses, organized what was described as a silent vigil Monday afternoon in front of the McGill University Health Center in Montreal.
They brought flowers in a show of support for staff and family members.
“I think we are all grieving right now for the past 18 months,” organizer Nordia German said. “We just want to show people that … we’re all in this together.”
The group said it wants to highlight the consequences of the health measures that have been implemented since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
More specifically, the group does not believe that vaccines should be mandatory.
In Quebec, all healthcare workers must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 15 or risk being suspended without pay. The government also requires proof of vaccination for hospital visits and access to some non-essential services for Quebecers aged 13 and over.
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Monday’s vigil was briefly interrupted by a small group of anti-vaccines who came to show their support for the nurses.
Organizers, however, were quick to distance themselves from the protesters, specifying that the group is not against the COVID-19 vaccine, but rather supports medical freedom.
“I am in favor of informed consent, I am in favor of freedom of choice,” said German. “We are all bio-individuals, so what is good for one person is not necessarily good for another.”
Jessica, who declined to give her last name, is another nurse who helped organize Monday’s silent vigil.
He said he was also fighting for freedom of choice, something he says he learned during his studies.
“In our nursing school they taught us what freedom of choice is,” she said. “We must always respect the decisions of our patients and it should be the same for us.”
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Jessica said she also wanted to show her support for other healthcare workers.
“They are not alone, it’s okay. If you don’t want the injection, you shouldn’t give it to yourself, ”he said.
Jenika Delisle Trunzo, Cedars Cancer Center clinical coordinator, observed the vigil as she took her lunch break.
“Everyone has a say,” he told Global News, “We live in a free country, that’s what makes being Canadian so great.”
But when it comes to getting vaccinated against COVID-19, Delisle Trunzo thinks it’s the right thing to do.
“If you are a healthcare worker, it is a must to get all your vaccinations and make sure your health is up to date,” he said. “We are here to protect the public and especially to work with immunosuppressed patients, it is your duty to protect yourself and others.”
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante took a much tougher stance.
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At a news conference Monday afternoon, she said she was outraged after learning of an anti-vaccination protest outside the hospital.
“That the anti-vaccines are going to harass health workers, who have given everything and are at the forefront, is not normal, it is not acceptable,” he said.
He also pointed to the anti-vaccination protests held outside of schools, calling them disgusting.
Plante said children go to school to learn not to be intimidated by adults and protests against vaccines in front of schools will not be tolerated.
“The police were there last time and will continue to be there if necessary,” he said.
Plante also spoke of similar protests in other parts of the country, such as Toronto, where he said ambulances were blocked from entering the emergency area, putting innocent lives at risk.
He said that it is okay if people do not agree to vaccination, but they do not have the right to prevent people from getting vaccinated, going to work to treat patients or going to school to study.
The city is currently examining what legal recourse it has for protests taking place outside vaccination centers at Montreal sites.
– with files from Gloria Henriquez of Global News
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