Toronto braces for anti-vax protest at hospitals as cops ready to make arrests
Another round of anti-vax protests is expected to erupt outside of Toronto hospitals on Monday, the latest in a spate of politically charged demonstrations responding to the province's vaccine passport mandate.
Monday's protests are being organized by a group called Canadian Frontline Nurses and are expected to see protesters converging in front of healthcare facilities across the country to "restore [their] freedoms and rights as Canadian citizens."
Anthony Dale, President and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA), issued a statement Sunday afternoon saying that the association "is saddened and deeply disappointed that additional anti-vaccination protests are planned outside Ontario hospitals this week."
Our @OntHospitalAssn statement on anti-vaccination protests being held tomorrow outside some hospitals. Healthcare workers and their patients should not be targets. Instead of conflict and tension let’s find ways to come together as a province. #onhealth #onpoli pic.twitter.com/PxMalgeGiz— Anthony Dale (@AnthonyDaleOHA) September 12, 2021
"We strongly urge those exercising their right to freedom of expression to do so peacefully, and in a manner that is respectful to the patients at those hospitals for care and the health care personnel working and performing their duties."
The statement points to conditions experienced by healthcare workers and patients during the Sept. 1 protest, including harassment and impediment to hospital access.
The OHA is pressuring Doug Ford and the provincial government to implement safeguards to prevent this kind of madness in the future. Their statement calls for "the support of the Government of Ontario and members of the legislature to strengthen protections for hospitals while also ensuring the ongoing right to freedom of expression for the public."
A provincial response to the protests hasn't been discussed publicly, though both Premier Doug Ford and Deputy Premier Christine Elliott tweeted their thoughts on the unfolding drama this weekend.
The protests we’re seeing outside of hospitals are selfish, cowardly and reckless. Our health care workers have sacrificed so much to keep us all safe during this pandemic. They don’t deserve this kind of treatment — not now, not ever. Leave our health care workers alone.— Doug Ford (@fordnation) September 12, 2021
Calls from healthcare and hospital associations are now being joined by other politicians speaking out on the matter and groups fighting to establish safe zones around hospitals.
Extremely disappointed to see our hospitals & staff being the target of protests after all of their sacrifice during the pandemic.— Christine Elliott (@celliottability) September 12, 2021
Peaceful protest is a right, but patients & our health care heroes do not deserve to be intimidated or obstructed from accessing or delivering care.
Toronto Mayor John Tory issued his own statement on Sunday evening, saying, "We all have a right to protest but abusing that right in order to harass people outside a hospital and spread misinformation about vaccines in the middle of the pandemic is unacceptable and beyond the pale."
We all have a right to protest but abusing that right in order to harass people outside a hospital and spread misinformation about vaccines in the middle of the pandemic is unacceptable and beyond the pale. pic.twitter.com/c5fMmtTg07— John Tory (@JohnTory) September 12, 2021
"It's unfair to our healthcare heroes and everyone trying to attend hospitals for treatment. As Mayor of Toronto, I absolutely condemn anyone taking part in this so-called protest - you are doing nothing to help people, to protect the progress we have made reopening our city, or make sure we bring this pandemic to an end," said Tory.
The mayor's statement confirms that he has had discussions about the protests with Toronto Police Chief Ramer, who has assured the mayor that "police would be working to once again ensure hospital staff are protected, that no one is unable to access treatment and that ambulances are able to enter and exit hospitals."
We respect the right to peaceful, lawful demonstration but hospital operations and public safety cannot be disrupted in any way. Officers will be present and monitoring and charges will be laid where warranted. #PublicSafety— Toronto Police (@TorontoPolice) September 12, 2021
Ramer's claims to Tory that people will be arrested for obstructing access to hospitals are a stark contrast to the videos that emerged during the Sept. 1 protest where police were accused of "losing control of the situation."
Private citizens are also taking it upon themselves with the creation of a change.org petition calling to "support legislation for the creation of Safety Zones around hospitals to prevent the harassment and bullying from anti-vaxxers, and to ensure the safety of our healthcare workers and our patients/their caregivers."
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