On Monday, dozens rallied outside of Toronto General hospital to protest COVID-19 measures despite Mayor John Tory’s plea to reconsider their “cowardly” choice of venue.
Anti-vaccine demonstrations were held across Canada on Monday, organized by a group that calls themselves the Canadian Frontline Nurses. The group’s founders are two Ontario nurses, Kristen Nagle and Sarah Choujounian, who have promoted unsubstantiated “COVID fraud” claims.
The protests are expected to happen outside hospitals in all 10 provinces to oppose, what organizers call “tyrannical measures and government overreach”.
The protesters’ choice of venue is under fire from politicians and healthcare workers. Mayor John Tory is trying to establish a “protective zone” around the hospital to make sure workers and patients can get in and out safely.
“I support police in taking whatever action is necessary to protect the lives of innocent people seeking medical care and all of our healthcare heroes,” said Tory via Twitter.
On Monday just after 4:00 PM, Toronto police tweeted, “there has been no disruption to hospital services, no reports of hospital staff or patients being obstructed, officers will remain on scene to ensure public safety (and they) will continue to monitor and provide updates when available”.
Emergency department physician Raghu Venugopal took matters into his own hands and protested against the anti-vaccine protest.
It is unsafe, as well as completely disrespectful to healthcare workers that have and continue to risk their lives throughout the pandemic, for these protest to be taking place in front of hospitals.
For patients and their families, going to the hospital is already taxing without the added presence of pretests. There have been many important calls to action in Canada throughout this pandemic but, this is not one of them. Where do we draw the line between the right to protest and a threat to public safety?
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole too condemned the anti-vaccine protests twitting, “No one should be permitted to obstruct access to a hospital. If necessary, law enforcement should be deployed to prevent this.”
The University Health Network said in a statement, “To see protests in front of hospitals is demoralizing for all who work here but particularly for the staff who have cared for the people dying of COVID-19, often without all of their family and loved ones around them”.
Proof-of-vaccination systems have been a major focus of the protests as they would limit access to public settings for unvaccinated people. The statement made by the Network also stated, “Vaccinations offer the best chance of preventing hospitalizations, admissions to ICUs and ventilation to preserve life”.
Manitoba’s proof-of-vaccination system took effect in June and earlier this month Quebec introduced one. British Columbia is next, with one set to roll out on Monday while Ontario is right behind them introducing one on September 22.