‘Don’t do this’: Another vaccine passport protest planned outside VGH

The province is looking at possibilities to protect B.C.'s hospitals ahead of potential protests next week. Health Minster Adrian Dix telling the unvaccinated they're just easy targets for COVID-19.
Editor’s note: The location of Monday’s protest has since been moved to Vancouver City Hall

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Despite the outrage prompted by last week’s protests against COVID-19 vaccine passports and other measures at Vancouver General Hospital, demonstrators are planning another round.

A protest is set to take place on Monday, the day B.C.’s vaccine passport system takes effect.

It’s part of a series of planned demonstrations in other cities and provinces, though many will not be taking place in front of hospitals this time around.

Read more: Upcoming Vancouver anti-vaxx protest moved to new location, blocks from hospital

On Sept. 1, thousands of protesters gathered outside VGH, disturbing hospital patients, staff, and families, and in some cases, disrupting hospital operations. In a statement released Thursday by the protest organizers, they defended their methods and messaging, and did not announce any plans to move their upcoming protests despite pushback.

FILE – COVID-19 protesters gathered outside of Vancouver City Hall and Vancouver General Hospital on Sept. 1 to speak out against vaccine passports. (Courtesy Twitter/imclaireallen)

It appears next week’s protests are being planned by the same group, Canadian Frontline Nurses, which is urging people to stand together “for informed consent & medical freedoms.”

‘Don’t risk people’s lives,’ urges Vancouver mayor

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says these demonstrations just “cannot continue in front of hospitals.”

“When they happened last week, I reviewed the situation thoroughly with Chief Adam Palmer of the Vancouver Police Department, as well as our health authority. I understand that the province is also concerned about this type of action right across British Columbia,” Stewart told NEWS 1130 Thursday.

“We’ve reviewed all our legal options and are going to make sure people can get to health care when they need it and they’re not impeded in any way to get to the hospital.”

One option, Stewart explains, is a legal injunction. He says there are other legal avenues the city can take, but that an injunction would “be the most prudent one at this point.”

“We will be preparing for this. My message, though, would be: Don’t do this. Don’t risk people’s lives for the sake of making a political point,” the mayor pleaded, adding people have a right to protest if they want to, but should do so elsewhere.

“Frontline workers — whether they’re police, or nurses, or doctors, or firefighters — they’re under tremendous strain here, and we don’t need this. We are all fatigued 18 months into a pandemic,” Stewart says.

The Vancouver Police Department has said while they “strongly support people’s rights to peacefully assemble and express their views,” officers “must also balance those rights with public safety.”

“We will monitor this demonstration and have a number of options should public safety be put at risk,” Sgt. Steve Addison said in an email to NEWS 1130.

Province looking at measures to protect patients, staff

On Thursday, Health Minister Adrian Dix was asked about a possible injunction to prevent these protests from blocking access to the hospital and nearby health treatment centres.

Dix says the province is looking at possible measures and will be reviewing all its options ahead of the planned protest.

“You are allowed to express your views but to interfere with cancer patients, and heart patients, and grieving families, and people who need to use the emergency rooms – there are places to demonstrate that are not our public hospital,” Dix said.

Previous protests leave front-line health staff, families in tears

Following last week’s protests, many health care workers across B.C. took to social media to share their frustrations, some saying their colleagues broke down in tears.

“I doubt you will accomplish your goal of having a tide of change,” physician Kari Way wrote in a poignant Facebook post. “Personally, I would have picked a spot with more visibility and presence than our usually quiet hospital street, especially since most of us at the hospital are vaccinated. And those that aren’t are admitted fighting for their lives.”

She went on to say, “You have made us feel deeply disrespected.”

Related video: Patients, healthcare workers react to B.C. vaccine card protests

In addition to hospital workers, Way and other health care workers say family members of patients who are critically ill were brought to tears, and those grieving loved ones who were hoping to say their peaceful good byes were disrupted.

Many concerning stories have emerged, with even some cancer patients recalling having to walk through crowds of unmasked and, at times, angry people to get to their treatments and appointments.

This all comes as health care workers sound the alarm over rising case numbers, adding additional stress on already-burnt out staff.

On Thursday, flowers and signs were placed outside Vancouver General Hospital to show support for staff. Many healthcare workers said they were touched by the gesture, but they are pleading for everyone, protesters included, to consider humanity as the fourth wave continues.

Past protesters question decision to target hospitals again

It appears the planned locations of some of the planned demonstrations has supporters divided too, with many online questioning why hospitals have to be targeted again.

“Why are we doing hospitals again? There was so much backlash last time,” wrote one person.

“We for sure need to change the locations of these rallies – we can’t do hospitals anymore,” wrote another.

As of Monday, people will be required to show proof of at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine to access a number of events, services, and businesses. The BC Vaccine Card will be introduced in stages, with two doses required to access these settings as of Oct. 24.

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While protesters have continued to demand their right to make their own medical decisions, the COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory anywhere in Canada, save for some front line health workers.

“I would just like to see the protesters not do this,” says Mayor Stewart. “Everybody’s under strain. You have a democratic right to say that you don’t want to have a vaccine passport, you’re anti-vaxx, or whatever you are, but you don’t have the right to block people from getting their own health care treatments and risking people’s lives, or to taunt or assault frontline workers, like police, nurses, doctors, firefighters — that’s just completely unacceptable. That’s not Canadian.”

Protests are also being planned in Victoria, Kamloops, and Kelowna, as well as every other province, though not all will be held in front of hospitals.

-With files from Nikitha Martins, Martin MacMahon, and Sonia Aslam

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