‘There is a time, place and subject’: Nurses’ association, RVH denounce protests against COVID-19 restrictions

In front of a large sign thanking health-care staff for their time and dedication during the pandemic, fewer than 100 people gathered to express outrage over vaccine passports, masks and other restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 and keeping Ontario’s medical system from becoming overwhelmed.

The rally, arranged by the Canadian Frontline Nurses group, took place Sept. 13 on the sidewalk along Georgian Drive, just outside in Barrie. No one in attendance who was asked could provide proof that they worked in nursing or the health-care sector; nor could anyone there direct Simcoe.com to an on-site organizer.

This was one of more than a dozen rallies planned at government buildings and hospitals across the country.

One protester, who claimed to be a registered nurse at RVH, but refused to provide proof or give her name, argued vaccines are making people sick.

“It’s being highly censored right now,” she said from behind a mask. “The whole world is.”

In August, with hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses distributed in the region, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit recorded — for a rate of 0.8 per 100,000 administrations — and two incidents of vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia.

The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) was quick to denounce the protests.

“Ontario’s nurses and health-care professionals are dedicated and exhausted professionals who are continuing to care for extremely sick patients under challenging conditions as the pandemic’s fourth wave rages on,” said president Vicki McKenna. “ONA is not opposed to peaceful protests, but there is a time, place and subject — and what we are seeing today definitely isn’t it. We know from previous protests … that nurses and health-care professionals, along with their patients and their families, were harassed. Hospitals must be safe zones for patients, families and staff.”

The RVH protest was peaceful and attendees did appear to stay off hospital property. Barrie police and RVH security were also present to keep entranceways around the property clear.

“People throughout our region depend on RVH to care for them and keep them safe,” RVH president and CEO Janice Skot said. “Rest assured, if a person needs help — whether they believe in the safety measures or not — Team RVH is there to care for them with commitment and compassion.

“As a health-care centre, RVH must to everything possible to protect our patients and the people who care for them. Those precautions include strict adherence to safety protocols, universal mask-wearing and mandatory vaccination of staff, physicians, students, volunteers and anyone who does business in our health centre.” 

A lone counter-protester kept her distance, but also treaded a path along Georgian Drive.

“The loud minority is out here trying to prolong the pandemic,” the woman, who declined to give her name, but said she lives in Barrie, told Simcoe.com. “We need more people to be out here showing support, rather than throwing rocks. You drive on the right side of the road, you wear your seatbelt. Why wouldn’t you do the bare minimum to keep your fellow Canadians safe?”