Gathering in the rain at the corner of Brady St. and Minto St., in front of the Greater Sudbury Police Services Headquarters at 190 Brady, more than 50 people came together at a solidarity rally on October 9 to support GSPS officer Melisa Rancourt.
Rancourt was arrested on Sept. 26 when she refused to provide proof of vaccination to attend her child’s hockey game at the Espanola Recreation Centre. Rancourt was arrested and charged with resisting a peace officer, and entering a premises when entry has been prohibited, contrary to the Trespass to Property Act (TPA). Her partner, Dana Rancourt, was also charged with trespassing in regards to the same incidents. You can read more about that incident here.
In order to fund her defence, Rancourt has set up her own GoFundMe to raise $7,000 for legal fees. The webpage for the fundraiser features a photo of Rancourt and her son, who is wearing a hockey jersey, and had reached $888 by late afternoon on Oct.9.
Among those at the rally that Sudbury.com spoke to, a common theme was a feeling that questioning the information offered by government officials and public health units was forbidden. Many said that their concerns and questions about the science and efficacy of the vaccine went unheard or were cause for scorn, and left them feeling invalidated. Words used included: “othered,” divided and isolated.
But more than the questions surrounding the vaccine, most people Sudbury.com spoke to at the protest said their issues were more with the mandates than with the vaccine or the science behind the virus.
Though two people at the rally spoke to a desire to have alternate therapeutics, including ivermectin, as an option for their health care, and many had issue with the vaccine and the testing behind it, others were very specifically there in opposition to the vaccine mandates in public places, which found the Rancourts facing charges and fines. However, some, like Tracy Lavoie, felt it was a combination of both.
Lavoie said she could soon lose her job as a personal support worker because of her vaccine status. Standing with her 13-year-old daughter, who she said will also remain unvaccinated, Lavoie said her employer, Extendicare, expressed to their employees that after October 12, staff who are not fully vaccinated will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence. She does not plan to change her mind about getting the vaccine, nor does she believe that the mandates should be allowed.
She believes that by requiring a vaccine, and being asked to offer proof of it, that she’s “being forced to do something that I should have a choice in and our basic human rights are being taken away.”
While holding two signs, one that reads “Hero to zero to unemployed,” and “My body, My choice,” Lavoie describes herself as a Christian and said that is what gives her the power of choice. And “I believe that we do have a choice,” said Lavoie, “and it’s our God given will whether to inject ourselves with something that's not even FDA approved yet.”
She told Sudbury.com she thought of serving her employer with a liability notice. “If I get this vaccine, if anything happens to me, you're going to be liable,” said Lavoie.She said until there is more evidence that the vaccine is working, she’s content to wait. “I think until there's more evidence that it's working, if all the residents are fully vaccinated, and now getting a third booster shot, then why should I have to be vaccinated? If they're safe, then that’s it.”
Though Lavoie said she does foresee issues ahead, there are also limitations for her daughter, as she too is unvaccinated. “If she goes on a field trip to Science North that they're planning, she won't be able to go, and that's discrimination,” she said.
“Now you're putting this on our kids, making them feel so upset, over something that I don't even know if it was man made virus.”
Others at the rally waved flags and held signs with slogans that read “Stand up for Freedom,” and “We do not consent, we do not comply,” the group also had a large rolling sign with a flashing light on top that read, “Wake Up.”
A Facebook post about the event generated the attendance of at least four people that Sudbury.com spoke with, one posted by J.R. Demellweek. It included the date, time and location, as well as a request for respect. “We are showing support for the police so everyone is to be on their best behaviour and respectful. As always,” reads the post. The post states that “the police are holding a rally,” but Sudbury.com did not see any officers nor did any identify themselves as such. Sudbury.com has reached out to Demellweek for comment.