Protesters gather in downtown Vancouver for rally against COVID-19 restrictions
VANCOUVER -- Just one day after federal health officials issued a dire warning about the possibility that COVID-19 variants could cause case counts to skyrocket, hundreds of unmasked protesters gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery for an event dubbed the “BC Grand Freedom Rally.”
A pair of Ontario nurses travelled to B.C. to take part in the event, which featured anti-maskers and other COVID-19 conspiracy theorists.
"We have doctors and nurses, some of them have been threatened to lose their jobs, some of them have already lost their jobs,” said event co-organizer Vladislav Sobolev.
Neonatal ICU nurse Kristen Nagle, who lost her job in London, Ont. after speaking at a rally in Washington, D.C. on the day of the riot at the U.S. Capitol, addressed the crowd of hundreds at the art gallery Saturday afternoon.
"We create our own reality. We create our rules. We create our future,” she told the largely unmasked crowd, which was packed shoulder-to-shoulder.
She was joined by Sarah Choujounian, a long-term care nurse from Ontario, who was also in Washington on the day of the insurrection.
"Nobody has the right to tell us when and where we see our loved ones. Ever,” she shouted into the microphone while speaking against visitor restrictions in long-term care.
Both nurses declined to be interviewed by CTV News Vancouver and it’s unclear if either has any specialized training to in epidemiology or infectious diseases.
Public health officials across Canada, who do have specialized education, have encouraged masks and physical distancing to slow the spread of the virus.
After a round of speeches, the rally-goers marched south on Granville Street with an escort from the Vancouver Police Department before returning to the art gallery to listen to more speakers.
Police looked on, but once again did not take any action to prevent the hundreds of maskless people from violating public health orders.
Concerned about possible rapid spread attributed to new variants, federal health officials urged Canadians to closely follow public health guidance.
"We have freedoms in this country, and that's why people who actually know the law and know their freedoms want to work with us, and that's what's happening,” said Sobolev in response to a question about coordinating with police ahead of the rally.
Organizers of similar events in other Canadian jurisdictions have been hit with thousands of dollars in fines, but the VPD has continually allowed the gatherings to go ahead without penalty.