Toronto Mayor and Health Experts Call for Safe Zones as Protests Target Hospitals in Ontario and Canada

An anti-vaccine group called the Canadian Frontline Nurses on Monday organized another round of protests against vaccination mandates for essential workers across Canada.

In Toronto, protesters held what they call a “silent vigil” in Queen’s Park at noon Monday, asking people to bring flowers and signs to “honor those affected by the measures implemented over the past year and a half.”

A group that was allegedly made up of first responders stood in the front lawn of Queen’s Park, about 200 people without masks dressed in blue, while supporters stood to the side watching.

While those protesting the vaccine mandates claim they are not against the coups itself, supporters who saw the protest live-streamed the vigil on social media and were observed by Star filming themselves sharing misinformation. about vaccines and side effects.

The protesters did not like his arms to the cheers of the crowd, who began to sing “O Canada” and sing “freedom.” Some of the supporters carry posters, including one that equates vaccine mandates to sexual assault. T-shirts supporting PPC also dot the crowd.

Journalists are easily identifiable as they are the only ones wearing masks.

At 1:20, the group, which includes families with young children in strollers, slowly begins to disperse.

The group plans to converge on the hospital row on University Avenue, which is home to Toronto General Hospital, Mt. Sinai Hospital and Princess Margaret Cancer Center.

This will be the second time this month that the organization has led protests outside hospitals in Canada. The group’s website claims to seek to “restore our freedoms and rights as Canadian citizens” and focus on “preventive care (and) a more natural cure.”

Several organizations have spoken out denouncing the protests.

The University Health Network, which operates Toronto General Hospital, tweeted on monday that the protest was “very disturbing and disheartening.”

“UHN teams have worked tirelessly during the pandemic, often putting their own well-being aside to protect those most at risk in our community. They have fought to keep the community safe and deserve the same right to safety when they come to work, ”said UHN.

“Demonstrations outside hospitals not only put health workers and staff at risk, but also patients who come to the hospital for care,” said the UHN, adding that “the security teams of the UHN and Toronto Police Services are aware and will work to ensure safe access for staff and patients to hospitals. “

An anti-vaccine organization called Canadian Frontline Nurses has planned a series of protests against vaccination mandates for essential workers in Ontario and across Canada on Monday.

Toronto Mayor John Tory told reporters Monday that he asked officials to see if the city can legally establish a “buffer zone” around hospitals where protesters are not allowed to enter.

If the city cannot establish no-protest zones, similar to those surrounding abortion clinics, Tory said she would be happy to speak with the provincial and federal governments about how to work together to ensure hospital staff and visitors can enter. and get out easily and safely.

The mayor said that the protesters’ abuse, harassment and obstruction of hospital staff and patients is “completely unacceptable … and I think how much more we can do to provide a clear line that no further obstructing or harassing people who work in hospitals or places. ” so better. “

“I would certainly be happy to have discussions with the provincial or federal governments regarding anything that needs to be done to further protect such places,” he added.

Tory noted that as mayor he can make his opinion on police enforcement known, but does not have the power to direct it. He said he spoke with James Ramer, Toronto’s acting police chief, on Sunday and was assured that hospital staff will be “protected” and that ambulances and visitors will not be obstructed.

The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) and the Medical Association of Ontario (OMA) have asked for safe areas around hospitals and other healthcare settings to protect patients seeking care, as well as healthcare professionals attempting to work.

Doris Grinspun, executive director of RNAO, told the Star that these protests prevent patients from entering hospitals for medical care and healthcare workers from doing their jobs. Grinspun says that authorized action against such demonstrations is long overdue.

“Any minute we wait is a minute too late. It is a minute in which the companions call me to tell me that they have had it. They have had it because (for) 18 months, they have worked non-stop giving it their all, ”Grinspun said. “Just imagine this other unnecessary stress on them.”

In Queen’s Park, NDP leader Andrea Horwath said the province must do more to protect doctors, nurses, support staff and patients. Horwath is pushing for legislation creating “safety zones” around hospitals and small businesses to limit such protests.

“No one should have to endure harassment and intimidation to get to a hospital. Not sick people. Not their families. And not the health workers themselves who have been working tirelessly to save people from COVID-19, ”he said.

Politicians and health experts have tolerated the actions after information about planned protests by a group claiming to be frontline nurses in front of hospitals in Toronto and across Canada was widely shared online.

Prime Minister Doug Ford denounced the demonstrations at the hospital, even when he was accused of not doing enough to stop them.

“The protests that we are seeing outside the hospitals are selfish, cowardly and reckless,” Ford said in Twitter.

“Our healthcare workers have sacrificed a lot to keep us all safe during this pandemic. They don’t deserve this kind of treatment, not now, not ever, “he tweets,” Let’s leave our healthcare workers alone. ”

Health Minister Christine Elliott said she was “extremely disappointed to see that our hospitals and our staff are the target of protests after all their sacrifice during the pandemic.”

“Peaceful protest is a right, but patients and our healthcare heroes do not deserve to be intimidated or obstructed from accessing or providing care,” Elliott said.

Liberal leader Steve Del Duca criticized Ford for not taking the protests more seriously.

“Enough is enough,” Del Duca said.

“Doug Ford needs to take action to protect the most vulnerable from the dangerous anti-science protests that we are seeing in Ontario hospitals,” he said.

The Ontario Police Memorial Foundation published a online statement address planned protests, with group president Jason Tomlinson tweeting his disappointment “That any group of first responders would use the memorial site to promote their agenda.”

“On behalf of our members, the OPMF denounces such a protest that occurs at these memorial sites, which are intended to honor Ontario police personnel and firefighters who have made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives in fulfilling their duty, “the statement said. .

The foundation goes on to say that it is not affiliated in any way with the group coordinating the protests against the vaccine mandates, adding that the group “respectfully requests that the organizers of this protest relocate their meeting to preserve the purpose and integrity of the They represent the memorials for police and firefighters within our first aid communities and for the families of those who have lost loved ones in the line of duty. “

Earlier this month, front-line Canadian nurses and their supporters blocked traffic in front of the hospital line for hours, taunting hospital workers and carrying placards perpetuating dangerous misinformation about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. . That same week, protesters gathered outside the Toronto police headquarters before marching down Yonge Street.

The Toronto Police Association has they distanced themselves from the protest, which organizers said was campaigning on behalf of the police against mandatory vaccinations, and told the Star at the time that they were not involved in the protest and did not support it “in any way.”

Jenna Moon is a breaking news reporter for the Star and is based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @jennamoon

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