A protest rally called by the Canadian Frontline Nurses (CFN) to be held in Sudbury and other cities across Ontario Monday attracted roughly 50 citizens who spoke out against the idea of mandated vaccination policies in the workplace and vaccine passports in general.
The event was held on Paris Street, in front of the Health Sciences North property, which is also adjacent to the Public Health Sudbury & Districts building.
Although the event was expected to mirror larger rallies held across the country, the local crowd
was much smaller than the rally held on Sept. 1, 2021 when close to 200 area residents took part to protest mandated vaccines. Sept. 1 was the same day that Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a vaccine passport policy for Ontario.
Sudbury.com endeavoured to find a spokesperson for CFN at the Sudbury rally, and although several people were approached and asked if they were affiliated with CFN, no one stepped forward to say they represented that organization. No one seemed to know of anyone connected to the CFN organization.
One woman said she was a nurse, but when asked to identify herself or where she worked, the woman declined to do either.
CFN said similar protests were expected to be held in Toronto, London, Barrie and Ottawa as well as in major cities across Canada. The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) spoke out earlier Monday, and expressed concern about the protests. OHA said in some larger cities, such protests have resulted in harassment toward patients and other healthcare workers seeking access to health-care venues.
In Sudbury, there was no violence, no apparent hostility toward any health-care workers and no interactions with police. About a dozen members of the Greater Sudbury Police Service were nearby and patrolling along Paris Street during the protest.
Earlier in the day, GSPS said police would be on scene to ensure that the protest proceeded safely.
For the most part, the rally protesters were the same people and same faces that have been at other Sudbury protests in recent days. Many of the protest signs were the same signs that have been photographed at previous events.
Some protesters also accused some members of the media of being liars and putting a false spin on COVID-19 stories in general.
Politics has also officially entered the fray with comments today on the protests from national party leaders.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said a New Democrat government would have laws to protect healthcare workers and patients from violence incited by protesters.
“There is no space at all for protests that are threatening healthcare workers and patients. It's wrong. That's not the place to protest. We would make it an aggravating element of a sentence if someone was in any way threatening a healthcare worker, threatening patients, getting in the way of their ability to access care. That’s 100-per-cent not on," said Singh.
A similar sentiment was voiced by the Liberal campaign today. In a statement from Vancouver, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said the idea of protests that are intimidating toward health-care workers and patients is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.
“I am deeply disturbed by anti-vaxxer gatherings outside of hospitals and health care sites in the last few weeks,” said Trudeau.
“These people are intimidating our health-care heroes and putting Canadians seeking health services at risk. I will not accept this. That’s why we’re going to take strong action to ensure everyone has access to the care they need and keep our front-line health care workers safe. Only our Liberal team will finish this fight against COVID-19 and keep our communities safe and healthy.”
In Sudbury, federal candidate David Hobbs, representing the People's Party of Canada for the Nickel Belt riding, took part in Monday's rally, but insisted he was not an anti-vaxxer or anti-healthcare.
Hobbs said his concern was that ordinary Canadians were being pushed into accepting COVID-19 vaccines.
"I'm expecting that people will start to realize and look around and see that their rights are being negated at extremely high levels. Whether you know, if you can't govern the right to govern your own body, without having quotas and or discrimination placed against you, which is what is happening in our society and Canada," said Hobbs.
"We are a democracy. We should not be divided based on one's choice, whether or not they choose to pick the vaccine at this time."
Also going on the record today was Health Sciences North (HSN), which expressed disappointment.
"We are saddened and disappointed that anti-vaccination protests are planned today outside 18 Canadian hospitals including Health Sciences North. We urge those exercising their right to freedom of expression to do so peacefully, and in a manner that is respectful to the patients and the health care workers performing their duties," said a statement from the hospital.
"Our health-care workers remain dedicated to saving the lives of patients admitted with COVID-19 while making every effort to ensure ongoing access to all other non-COVID related health services.The best way to support our employees and medical staff is to get vaccinated against COVID-19."
One especially vocal protester, who goes by the Facebook moniker of Lynda Maree, explained why she and others continue to protest
“So we're here fighting for freedom, our medical right to put in our body what we want. I don't tell people not to go eat at a fast food restaurant every night. I don't tell them to take care of their bodies. Take care of your body, the way you see fit, right? Nobody has the right to tell me what to put in my body or what to put on my face. It's freedom of choice. Do what you want,” she said.