Throughout B.C., protestors opposed to vaccine mandates and COVID-19 protocols like masks gathered in the thousands today.
Large crowds gathered outside the legislature and Nanaimo General hospital with their signs and bullhorns, cars circling the block, honking in support.
“I think this is a little too much especially doing it in front of the hospital,” said one Nanaimo resident.
It was too much, according to Island Health.
“Members of Island Health care teams were verbally abused as they came to and left work during these protests, and in at least one case a health-care team member was physically assaulted,” said Island Health President and CEO Kathy MacNeil.
“What happened to our health-care teams today is not acceptable to me nor to the people and communities they serve. Our health-care teams deserve respect and support, no matter what personal beliefs we hold.”
In Victoria on the lawns of the legislature were hundreds of protestors with a wide array of things they were protesting. Some were against masks, others ‘pro choice’ or anti-vaccine mandate, others were entirely anti-vaccine.
“It’s been an amazing mixed bag,” said Brendan Marshall, owner of Sunnyside Cafe.
The common denominator seemed to be that most felt their point of view had been overlooked by the general public and their politicians, and the desire to have freedom of choice over their own bodies.
“I don’t believe in masks or lockdowns. I believe in fresh air, sunshine, vitamin D, good food,” said Bill Wollam, a vaccine protestor.
“I didn’t take the vaccine. I haven’t been sick for three years.”
Many demonstrators shared misinformation and some believe censorship of truthful information is taking place.
“It’s exposing that the truth is being hidden,” said one protestor.
The event also drew though those who once again equated the temporary vaccine mandate to facism.
“It’s forced Natzi-ism, it’s tyranny. Where’s the freedom of choice?” said Woollam.
But lawyers say that in Canada, freedoms can legally be limited if justifiable, proportional, and balanced.
“While people certainly have the right to bodily autonomy, they don’t have the right to dictate how their body interacts with other people,” said Kyla Lee, a lawyer with Acumen Law.
“We have laws criminalizing assault, sexual assault and even just touching.”
B.C.’s current vaccine mandate doesn’t allow for exemptions for any reason, and is likely where the law is most vulnerable.
But lawyers say protests like these, water down the debate for people who have legitimate conflicts with the mandate.
“I think that the people who are arguing they shouldn’t have to get vaccinated to go to a restaurant because it’s their choice are doing a disservice to the people who have a legitimate complaint about their human rights being potentially violated about this,” said Lee.