Who’s behind the Justin Trudeau protests? This Newmarket mom is among the influencers urging people to show up and speak out against the ‘segregation of humanity’

A loose network of COVID-19 vaccine and lockdown protesters is using digital tools to make the federal election campaign one of the most vitriolic in recent memory, congregating in encrypted chats to track Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s whereabouts and organize disruptions of his public events. The protesters are posting the schedule for Trudeau’s public events the night before, including the addresses and times of his campaign events. In one chat, a member suggested that they received the itineraries from “a media person.” Another well-known GTA anti-lockdown protester bragged that he’s been sharing Trudeau’s itinerary online. The Star has been monitoring a group with more than 500 members, which uses the encrypted messaging app Telegram, since Saturday — the morning after dozens of angry protesters prompted Trudeau to cancel a campaign rally in the village of Bolton, Ont. The group is not explicitly partisan. While its chat is filled with expletive-laced rants against the Liberal leader, its members also criticize Premier Doug Ford over vaccination passports and Education Minister Stephen Lecce over back-to-school rules. Once Trudeau’s location is known, some group members organize carpools, while others meet up at the events and post live video from the crowd. Afterwards, they celebrate their efforts. “Looking to car pool with whom ever is going to be in Cambridge I’m in Bolton,” wrote one user, posting Trudeau’s itinerary for Sunday. “Just tried to get into the campaign office … Big crowd here of patriots. I think it’s Montreal tomorrow (but) even his own people don’t know,” wrote another, before an event on Sunday in Cambridge, Ont. That protester claimed to have successfully eavesdropped on Liberal volunteers discussing upcoming campaign stops in Montreal and Iqaluit. “If it is (Montreal) let me know my hometown and I will send many people,” another user replied. The Trudeau campaign did not expect this. While the Liberal leader preaches compassion and understanding in response to the protesters’ anger, his campaign did not anticipate either the level of anger being expressed nor the protesters’ apparent ability to co-ordinate. It is not known if other like-minded groups are mobilizing to disrupt Trudeau’s campaign, but the Telegram channel provides a window into how the small-scale protests that have greeted Trudeau on the campaign trail have morphed into angry, co-ordinated crowds. ‘For anyone who wants to know where Trudeau is going to be at next or who wants to partake in these rallies and these protests and show our forces, then send me a message and I’ll send you the link for the Telegram group. Enough. We got to let them know that wherever he comes, he is not welcomed,’ said Samantha Denuzzo, one of the channel’s most prominent promoters, in a video posted to Instagram on Aug. 28. “And what’s crazy is that he looks like a f—— fool, like he looked like a mad man just waving to the air, like waving to the people. I was there.” Denuzzo told the Star she has promoted the channel and the protests to her nearly 10,000 followers on her Facebook and Instagram accounts, because people are afraid and angry. In an interview on Monday, the 32-year-old Newmarket resident and mother of three said Trudeau and other politicians are pushing for a “segregation of humanity” between those who are vaccinated against COVID-19 and those who are unvaccinated. It is for that reason, she said, that she has also advised her followers to join survivalist “be prepared” Instagram accounts in case unvaccinated people are barred from grocery stores in the fall — despite the fact that there have been no credible reports that any such move has been contemplated. “It’s going to be very, very dark times,” Denuzzo said in another video posted to Instagram in mid-August. “You’re going to need people to lean on and you’re going to need people within your community that you can lean on. But, like, are we just going to wait for that time to come? Are we just going to sit back and just wait for that time to roll in?” The Telegram channel monitored by the Star had 510 members as of Monday afternoon. It is owned by Ryan Michalowski, who frequently posts COVID-19-related conspiracy theory memes on his Facebook and Instagram channels. In a message to the Star late Monday, Michalowski said he did not “know or control what anyone talks about in there. The chat is for people standing up for the kids.” “These small, kind of micro-communities are part of a larger movement,” said Elizabeth Simons, a researcher with the Canadian Anti-Hate Network who has been monitoring anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination communities. “So when 50 to 100 people show up to these protests right now on the campaign trail, they’re not all being organized by one single source. They are being given the information from numerous different sources. It may look organized, but it likely very much isn’t.” Simons said she sees similarities between groups protesting against M-103, the federal motion condemning Islamophobia in Canada; the so-called Canadian Yellow Vest movement; and what she calls the “COVID-denialism movement.” “There are influencers, there are main nexuses that share information. But largely these are a number, sometimes upwards of hundreds of groups and forums, Facebook groups, Telegram groups that basically share information back and forth,” Simons said. But protesters like Denuzzo say they are not “anti-anything.” They say they are angry and frustrated with pandemic restrictions, vaccination passports and vaccination mandates. “To be clear, I am not anti-vaccine,” Denuzzo told the Star, saying she was not opposed to childhood vaccinations against diseases such as the measles, because “they have been tested and proven.” She rejects the expert consensus; in her judgment, COVID-19 vaccines are too new. “What I am against is experiments on children,” said Denuzzo, who would not disclose her own vaccination status. “I think it is very strange that people can suddenly think they can ask about your personal medical decisions,” she said, echoing a common talking point among opponents of vaccination mandates and passports. She said the movement has no leaders, just social media pages for “concerned citizens” to share information. Political parties are not funding the protests, she said. Trudeau has had run-ins on the campaign trail with individuals or small groups of anti-vaccination protesters since the federal election kicked off. It started on Aug. 16 in Cobourg, Ont. a day after Trudeau called the snap election. Video made at Trudeau’s event showed maskless demonstrators shouting obscenities as the Liberal leader greeted supporters. Since then, anti-vaccination demonstrators have been a fixture of Trudeau’s public events. Reporters travelling with the Liberal leader indicated that Trudeau’s typical response was to tell them to “please get vaccinated.” But despite Trudeau’s dismissal, videos from the encounters were tense — people screaming at Trudeau, a concerned-looking RCMP security detail, a volunteer getting knocked to the ground, increased police presence. The Liberal campaign also suspects that at least one protester followed the campaign from Ontario to British Columbia. The situation came to a head on Friday. Citing security concerns, the Liberal campaign abruptly cancelled a planned rally in the small community of Bolton, Ont. Trudeau’s campaign had no public events on Saturday. On Sunday, the protests resumed. A member of the Telegram channel posted Trudeau’s Sunday itinerary, which was initially shared on the Telegram page of Chris Saccoccia, a COVID-19 protester with a large following who is also known as Chris Sky. “Give Trudeau the welcome he deserves,” wrote Sky. “Awesome turnout! We found the p—-,” wrote one user after Sunday’s protest in Cambridge. “Amazing work everyone … United we stand against this piece of s—.” “Anyone know if he is attending elsewhere?” At Trudeau’s next campaign stop in Waterloo, a protester carried a sign that accused him of “high treason” and depicted him being led to the gallows. The sign carried the logo of The Line Canada, a prominent anti-lockdown protest group. The vitriol that was evident in Denuzzo’s most recent video — which was filled with expletives, unlike her past calls to action on Instagram — was a result, she says, of high emotion. Asked if there is a line between protesters being angry with Trudeau and calling for his execution, Denuzzo said she would not “judge or tell anyone what they should or should not say.” She went on to further justify the demostrators’ position with a baseless claim. “I think that is a rhetorical question, and I could turn it around and say it goes both ways, and say that Trudeau is killing children by forcing vaccines on them.” Alex Boutilier is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: Grant LaFleche is a St. Catharines-based investigative reporter with the Standard. Reach him via email:

What do Ontario’s breakthrough infections teach us about the COVID-19 vaccine?

The Ontario government has recently been reporting the number of breakthrough COVID-19 infections in fully vaccinated people, as part of its daily data collection — and the percentage has been sitting around 20 per cent. On Aug. 26, 678 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the province and among those infected individuals, 141 were fully vaccinated. Out of that data, 395 were unvaccinated, 82 were partially vaccinated and 60 have an unknown status.  As well, Ontario reported that out of all the people who are currently in hospital due to COVID-19, but not in ICU, 137 are unvaccinated, 14 are partially vaccinated and 31 are fully vaccinated.  Of those in ICU, 89 are unvaccinated, nine are partially vaccinated and 10 are fully vaccinated.  Tania Watts, a professor of immunology at University of Toronto, who is also a member of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, said these breakthrough rates are “not unexpected.” In an email to Metroland, Watts said the rates actually show the high degree of protection that vaccinated Ontarians are getting, when taking into consideration that 75 per cent of eligible individuals have received both jabs. She explained that unvaccinated people make up only one-quarter of the population but 82 per cent of the people in ICU, which shows that “the vaccinated are getting a very high level of protection.” When asked about breakthrough infections at his weekly news conference on Aug. 24, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore had something similar to say.  “As more and more Ontarians are immunized, over 10 million of us, the unvaccinated are a much smaller number — around 2.2 million that are eligible to be immunized,” he said. “So when you look at overall infection rates, you’ll see that sometimes a significant number of vaccinated people will get the illness, but they will have less severe symptoms, less risk of hospitalization, less risk of being admitted to the ICU and less risk of death.” Reggie Lo, professor emeritus in the department of molecular and cellular biology at the University of Guelph, said the recent breakthrough infection rates Ontario has been reporting are quite high, compared to rates that have been previously recorded in several other countries. For example, an Israeli study from late July by the found a 2.6 per cent COVID-19 breakthrough rate among health-care workers. As well, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data from reported a 0.01 per cent breakthrough rate in the U.S. However, this week, showed that 25.3 per cent of people in Los Angeles County who contracted COVID-19 from May to July were fully vaccinated — a rate closer to Ontario’s. Lo said there are a number of factors that could be contributing to the high breakthrough infection rate in Ontario, such as immune response levels and infection dose. “One should also look into the severity of illness in these individuals. If they have mild or no symptoms, the vaccination is protecting them,” he added. “The PCR test is amplifying the viral RNA, it could be detecting remnants of the virus, not entire infectious particles, which also mean the vaccination is working.” He said, however, that the manner in which Ontario has been collecting the data may be creating some inaccuracies. For example, it is possible that the “status unknown” cases reported are from individuals who are unvaccinated but are unwilling to reveal this information. Regarding third doses, Watts said there is evidence that many seniors in long-term care and people who are immunocompromised have a weaker response to vaccines and for that reason, a third dose is beneficial and should be done as soon as possible. However, she said, that may not necessarily be the case for all Ontarians in the future. “I am of the view that we can still wait for the healthy population. There isn’t much evidence yet of declining immunity in this population or whether a third dose would make a difference,” Watts said. “I think we will be watching the data emerging elsewhere.”

Slow down and put cellphones away; South Simcoe Police urge as kids head back to school

will be deploying all available police officers to ensure the school year begins safely.  It’s the department’s ‘All Hands On Deck’ back-to-school safety campaign. Students are back to school on Tuesday, Sept. 7. Residents can expect to see increased police presence in school zones in Bradford and Innisfil from that day until Friday, Sept. 17, police said.  Police will be enforcing driver, cyclist and pedestrian safety.  Drivers are urged to slow down and put their cellphones away, police said. “Be extra vigilant as children will adjusting to new schedules, wearing masks and practising physical distancing while walking to school and at bus stops,” police said.  The fine for failing to stop for a school bus with flashing lights and extended stop arm is $400 to $2,000 and six demerit points for a first offence. If convicted of distracted driving, drivers could be fined up to $1,000. The fine for speeding in school zones is $400 to $2,000 and six demerit points. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to talk with their children about safety.  Give yourself extra time to avoid rushing and reduce the stress of the return to regular routines.

To vax or not to vax: Wasaga to bring in vaccine policy for town employees

Wasaga Beach municipal employees will soon have new rules for the vaccinated, and unvaccinated. However, the town’s deputy fire chief and point person on COVID-19, Craig Williams, said anyone opting not to get a jab will not be subjected to antigen testing. “There are a number of challenges with the testing, the logistics of delivering (testing) on a daily basis and the number of staff we have,” he said. Williams presented council’s co-ordinated committee with a draft vaccination policy that will apply to employees, contractors, volunteers, and politicians. The policy, which is not yet in its final form, would require employees — including those who are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Wasaga Beach Professional Firefighters Association — to report their vaccination status to the town’s human resources department. The town’s pandemic command team, in consultation with the local health unit, conducted an assessment of the risk for employees, and determined it to be “moderate risk” of virus transmission, Williams said. The position on testing could be reviewed depending on the progress of the pandemic, he said. Employees retain the right, he said, “to make an informed decision about their personal health care, including the decision to become vaccinated. “We will be strongly encouraging all employees to receive the vaccine,” he said. Employees who do not submit proof of their vaccination status, or who are unable to be vaccinated, will be treated as unvaccinated. That will mean a requirement to wear a mask in all municipal facilities, including non-public areas, when in the presence of another employee, regardless of physical distancing or other public health measures. Should an outbreak occur in a municipal facility, unvaccinated employees will be subject to other precautionary measures that may include wearing additional personal protective equipment, modified or reassigned duties, alternate work locations, or required use of vacation and sick time. However, emphasized Williams, “under no circumstances will an employee face any degree of intimidation, coercion, bullying or any other negative behaviour” based on a decision whether or not to be vaccinated. “The municipality’s standpoint is we will support our employees with their decision-making,” he said. Council will be updated at a later meeting on the reintroduction of in-person meetings for council and committees. That policy will be informed by the province’s vaccine passport system that will come into force on Sept. 22.

Eight Simcoe County schools report cases of COVID-19

Students are back to school and boards have started to report on positive COVID-19 cases among in-person learners.  The , , (French Roman Catholic), and (French public) report COVID-19 cases for a combined 180 educational settings in Simcoe County. They are reporting cases in eight out of 180 locations.  One case is confirmed at in Collingwood within the Simcoe County District School Board. Date: Sept. 13. There are no classrooms closed. The school is open. One case is confirmed at in Alliston. Date: Sept. 13. One classroom is closed. The school is open. One case is confirmed at in Oro-Medonte. Date: Sept. 13. There are no classrooms closed. The school is open. One case is confirmed at in Collingwood. Date: Sept. 13. There are no classrooms closed. The school is open. One case is confirmed at in Angus. Date: Sept. 13. There are no classrooms closed. The school is open. One confirmed student case at  in Barrie within Conseil Scolaire Viamonde. Date: Sept. 12.  One case is confirmed at in Bradford within the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board. Date: Sept. 10. One classroom is closed. The school is open. One staff member case at in Borden within MonAvenir Catholic School Board. Date: Sept. 10. The school is open. Information about COVID-19 in Simcoe County is available here: . Note from the Simcoe County District School Board: A positive case at a school does not necessarily mean the individual was exposed to COVID-19 at the school. They may have been exposed somewhere else in the community.

Simcoe County public board says students can switch from online to in-class learning if space available

The Simcoe County District School Board says its policy remains unchanged when it comes to students having to remain in online or in-class learning until the end of the term, but exemptions may be granted in some cases. Sarah Kekewich, manger of communications for the board, said a student may be able to make the switch before the end of the term in February of next year, but “only where space exists in a school.” In June, prior to the summer break, parents were asked to decide whether they wanted to keep their children in online learning, or to have them return to the classroom in the fall. Parents were told that once they made the choice, they could not switch their child’s learning model until the start of the next term. “The staffing and development of both in-person and remote learning classes require considerable coordination, taking into account multiple factors including enrolment, school composition, class cohorts and collective agreements with our union members,” Kekewich said in a written statement. “It is for those reasons that families were asked to make this decision about their child’s learning mode in June. We understand that this was a difficult decision; however, we needed to prepare for our students to ensure that programming would be ready beginning on Sept. 7.” Amanda Reiber is a mother of three elementary-aged students who lives in the Everett area. When she initially decided to keep her kids learning from home, her working circumstances were different. But her situation changed over the summer, prompting her to ask the board to allow her to switch her kids to in-class learning. “I know I’m not the only parent in this situation,” she said. She was told there was nothing that could be done until February. But she didn’t take no for an answer, and after weeks of pleading with the board, her request was granted. She questions why the board didn’t revise the policy closer to the starts of the school year, when COVID-19 cases were lower, vaccination rates higher, and more people had started returning to work. “I think February is too late if you ask me,” she said. “That’s half way through the school year, where you are going to have to uproot the kids and they will have to get used to everything again. I think sooner is better, because it will be less disruptive to their schedules.”

Andy Trudeau focus of inaugural exhibition at Midland Cultural Centre Gallery of Indigenous Art

There’s a new spotlight shining on First Nations art in Midland. The newly established (MCC) Gallery of Indigenous Art will be located in the Atrium Gallery, a space formerly utilized by Quest Art School and Gallery on the first floor of the King Street facility.    With programming and oversight by a committee featuring a majority Indigenous membership, the MCC will operate the gallery focusing on work by artists and artisans of Beausoleil First Nation and members of the Georgian Bay Métis community. The space will also show works by the broader community of Canadian Indigenous artists and artisans. The inaugural exhibition will be “Andy Trudeau 1924-2013, The Drawings.” Trudeau grew up on a homestead his family built on Spider Bay in the mid-1920s. The family is part of the historic Georgian Bay Métis community. When Trudeau was 87 years old and living in Hillcrest Village Care Centre in Midland, he was trying to explain what a scoot was to a fellow resident. He asked his daughter Jo-Anne to bring him a pencil and paper so he could draw one. After this first pencil drawing, Trudeau became an artist, drawing daily with graphite pencil on loose paper, and later with coloured pencils in a sketchbook. By the time of his passing two years later, he had created a group of drawings that documented the scoots and boats he built, as well as the animals, birds and fish he trapped and caught in his long life on the outer islands of Georgian Bay. These drawings are full of precise information about their subjects, even though Trudeau paid little attention to the conventions of perspective. Taken together, these drawings document a life lived on the remote and hard-to-access islands of Georgian Bay. “Andy Trudeau 1924-2013, The Drawings” will open as a virtual exhibition on the MCC website Sept. 17, and will be open to the public when the MCC reopens to the public later this fall.

Napoleon hiring 100 more workers for its Barrie manufacturing facility

Napoleon is hiring 100 full-time employees. The manufacturer is adding to its workforce at its Barrie facility after experiencing strong sales and increased demand for its products, the company said in a media release. Napoleon will be seeking to find people to fill these jobs with a job fair on Sept. 16 at  from 1 to 7 p.m. Positions are available on afternoon and midnight shifts, with premiums. Those interested are asked to bring a resume for on-site, in-person interviews at the job fair. Job offers will be made as quickly as 48 hours after the job fair is complete. The job fair is an outdoor, COVID-19-conscious event that will take place rain or shine. Napoleon is a Canadian manufacturer and retailer of quality grills, fireplaces and heating and cooling solutions based in Barrie. It currently employs more than 1,000 associates. For more information, visit .

Springwater man charged after Barrie collision

A 38-year-old Springwater man is facing a Highway Traffic Act charge after a crash in Barrie Aug. 26. Emergency crews were called shortly before 5 p.m. to a collision at Ferndale Drive North between Dunlop Street and Edgehill Drive after two vehicles collided. Officers closed the road for an investigation. “It looks like (the driver) was driving on Ferndale Drive North and was turning left when he struck the other vehicle,” Barrie police spokesperson Jennett Mays said. There’s no update on the extent of injuries.

Vote 2021: York-Simcoe resident Scot Davidson running for the Conservative Party of Canada

CANDIDATE NAME: Scot Davidson  RIDING: PARTY: Conservative Party of Canada AGE: 51  OCCUPATION: Member of Parliament  RESIDENCE: Georgina  PAST POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Member of Parliament, 2019 to present  WEBSITE: Bio: I was born and raised in Georgina and still reside there with my wife Suzanne and son Graydon. I started my business career as a restaurateur in my early 20s and went on to own and operate several successful businesses in York-Simcoe. I have a keen interest in the outdoors and enjoy golfing, fishing and piloting small aircraft.  Living and working within the farming and lakefront community for my entire life, I have developed a strong interest in the community and am committed to small business and the health of Lake Simcoe.  Vaccinated: Yes. I received my vaccination when eligible, as they are a safe and effective tool to stop the spread of COVID-19.  I encourage everyone who is able to get one — however, we must also respect the health choices of all Canadians and provide rapid testing to protect our most vulnerable.  If elected, I pledge to … Focus relentlessly on jobs, wages and getting Canada’s economy and finances back on track as quickly as possible, while making life more affordable for Canadian families.  Conservatives will also prioritize health funding, ensure accountability in Ottawa and secure our country by building up our domestic manufacturing capacity. 

‘I’m gonna choose hope:’ Climate change fighter calls on Barrie residents to get involved

If Barrie had thousands more like Andee Pelan, the city would be that much closer to meeting its lofty goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But with many residents throwing up their hands in frustration in the face of the climate crisis or denying it’s even a problem, convincing everyone to do their part can be a monumental challenge. “When people say, ‘It’s too big; it’s China’s problem; it’s the government of Canada’s problem,’ then you lose hope in having any control,” Pelan said. “Given the option, I’m gonna choose hope. I’m leaving my daughter a world that I don’t think is going to be as good as the world I was left, and I want her to know that at least her mom did what she could.” Pelan, director of the non-profit , was watering fruit trees she and other volunteers planted near Edgehill Drive when she paused to be interviewed for this story. Planting trees is one of the projects Living Green has taken on to battle climate change at the grassroots level. It’s a positive step, but Pelan knows it will take much more to help the city reduce greenhouse gases created by residents. According to for its greenhouse gas emission reduction plan, the big culprits are residential homes heated by natural gas and private vehicles powered with gasoline. About 55 per cent of emissions in the city are spewed by vehicles, while another 27 per cent come from homes. Living Green is working alongside the city to persuade drivers to go electric and homeowners to switch to solar or an electric furnace. Both options require hefty upfront costs but come with significant savings in the long run. “We’re in an instant-gratification, the lowest-price-is-the-law, kind of community,” she said. “In the long run, going green is cheaper. But it’s hard to explain that to people in 30 words or less.” A virtual public meeting on greenhouse gas emissions in April pointed to the same dilemma. Minutes from the meeting show speakers called on the city to educate citizens on the need for change. “Education is critical; people do not like change, and messaging that focuses on increasing their understanding of how climate change affects them or their future grandchildren may help,” one quote reads. Some residents may want to retrofit their homes, knowing it will save money and reduce greenhouse gases, but can’t afford the upfront costs. Mayor Jeff Lehman recognizes that challenge and offered a solution earlier this year. He favours a program setup where a company, organization or philanthropist covers the cost of major home retrofits. They could then collect a fee based on a percentage of the property’s monthly energy cost savings. “The average homeowner won’t want to drop $100,000 on a comprehensive package of upgrades,” he said. “But if somebody came to them and said, ‘We’ll provide the upgrades and take some of the upside benefit, and you’ll pay for it that way,’ that’s a very powerful way of doing things. You split the savings. There’s a real model here.” Pelan supports the city’s work on greenhouse gas emissions but adds that courageous leadership and serious funding is needed from Ottawa. “You think of anything that’s happened of any significance in human history, and it’s because somebody took a bold move that was outside of what all the naysayers said.” That said, Pelan never underestimates the power of doing the little things, like the young volunteers who pitched in to help care for the fruit trees. “The two little kids that were out there, they’re seeing their parents model a behaviour,” she said. “That is going to be everything for who they become in the future.” STORY BEHIND THE STORY: With the effects of climate change becoming more evident, reporter Rick Vanderlinde decided to find someone who could inspire individuals and offer hope.