Anto-vaxx protest
The anti-vaccine protesters near Ottawa Hospital. Photo: Shailee Shah/Fulcrum
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Fewer than 50 people gathered outside Ottawa Hospital’s civic campus

Around 50 individuals protested provincial health mandates regarding vaccinations for healthcare workers outside the Ottawa Hospital’s Civic campus on Sept. 13. 

The protest staged on Carling Avenue was part of a series of national protests organized by the Canadian Frontline Nurses for “medical freedom.”

Protesters, many of whom were unmasked, were seen holding up signs displaying phrases such as “my body my choice” and “Dr. Theresa Tam: traitor.”

Anti-vaxx protester
Photo: Shailee Shah/Fulcrum

Rachel Muir, the Ontario Nursing Association’s (ONA) bargaining unit president for the Ottawa Hospital, expressed frustration surrounding the protest.

“I find it disappointing and disrespectful,” said Muir in an interview. “I recognize everybody’s right to protest in a peaceful manner — we’re lucky enough to have that privilege in the society we live in. However, their location was sadly misguided. They chose to protest outside an acute care hospital where the people you are impacting are staff, patients, and their families, who are there to get care and provide care.” 

Muir also stated that ONA “has not made it mandatory for their workers to be fully vaccinated, but has highly recommended it. That is our stance as a union.” 

Muir believes that this sort of political demonstration should not disrupt the provision of health care. 

“We are not the ones mandating vaccines or passports or any of that. That is all coming from the Ontario government. They should be protesting outside their MPP’s offices, they’re the ones who are responsible for these things. It’s not appropriate to protest outside the hospital. Certainly not for something like this, because we have no say in it. We’re mandated by what the government says.” 

Old lady with anti-vaxx sign
Photo: Shailee Shah/Fulcrum

Joel Harden, MPP for Ottawa Centre, was present with his team at the protest on Monday. Harden said that he was there to help safely escort patients and healthcare workers if need be. 

“It’s fine to express one’s points of view, but it’s not fine to disrespect, block, or cause chaos to someone’s workspace where people are trying to access health services,” explained Harden. 

“Thankfully the hospital was not compromised on Monday and security had it under control. We were holding up a banner that said ‘Thank you nurses, and thank you healthcare workers’ to show our support. I think our presence was appreciated by people working in Civic.”

Harden wants anti-vaccine and anti-mask individuals to know that “there is absolutely no right to threaten the well being of healthcare workers or any worker. That’s not going to be tolerated.”

“[Hospital staff] told me that people are getting really sick. They wished some of the anti-vaccine protesters could come inside themselves so they could renounce themselves of conspiracy theories that have led them to believe what they believe,” said Harden on his experience speaking with hospital workers. 

Harden also got the chance to speak with the protesters themselves. “They were telling me about troubles they were having with work, housing, taxes, access to nutritious food, severed relationships with family and friends. The people who are protesting the vaccines in the masses, they’re desperate to have things turn back to normal. So am I. But that’s not going to happen by making your communities less safe. Now is not the time for us to be indulging in narcissism, we actually have to indulge in conversation,” said Harden.

The message to healthcare workers that Harden wants to relay is very clear: “We see you, we value you, we love you, we are sorry if these protests demoralize you. Know that your community appreciates you.”