Backlash to anti vaccine mandate protest prompts move away from Winnipeg hospital

WINNIPEG –

A protest against vaccine mandates originally planned outside a Winnipeg hospital had a change of venue following backlash from the public.

Winnipeg was one of a handful of cities across Canada to hold an anti-vaccine mandate protest on Monday. Protesters marched from the Manitoba Legislature, down Main Street to City Hall where they stood in silence.

This comes two weeks after a protest outside the Health Sciences Centre (HSC).

READ MORE: ‘Profoundly disrespectful’: protesters outside HSC harassed patients, staff for wearing masks

Monday’s protest was originally planned to be held outside HSC again, but organizers said the response from the public prompted the protest to move away from the hospital.

“The venue changed because we heard feedback on the negative impacts that it had at the hospital last time that the Canadian Frontline Nurses organized,” said Shaun Zimmer, who was among the organizers of Monday’s protest.

“We want to make sure that we aren’t causing any more divide unlike many individuals do, so we changed it to accommodate for that and have everybody’s best interest at heart.”

Anti-vaccine mandate protest organizer Shaun Zimmer (right) speaks with protesters outside Winnipeg City Hall on Monday, Sept, 13, 2021. (Source: Danton Unger/ CTV News Winnipeg)

According to posters for the protest, the march was being organized as a part of a ‘National Health Freedom Movement’ by a group calling itself the Canadian Frontline Nurses. This group shared posters about a number of similar protests outside hospitals in multiple communities in Canada.

It prompted Manitoba’s Premier Kelvin Goertzen to send a message to protesters on Twitter.

“In Canada, we all have the right to freedom of speech and peaceful protest. Preventing access and creating anxiety at a hospital are not, however, reflective of those Canadian values,” he said in a tweet Monday afternoon.

“Please respect patients and healthcare workers and protest elsewhere.”

Dr. Cheryl Cusack, the executive director of the Association of Registered Nurses of Manitoba, condemned the protests, saying they are disheartening and stressful for the nurses working amid the pandemic.

“We’re hearing from nurses that this stress of the pandemic has taken a huge toll on their own mental health and these protests are adding to that stress,” Cusack said. “Nurses are worried now about being harassed for doing their job and they are also concerned about patients and families that are coming to access services.”

Cusack said she has not heard of any members from the association who are a part of the protests. She said any nurses who are joining protests are a ‘vocal minority.’

“We are all regulated nurses and what that means is we are bound by a code of ethics, and we practise based on evidence and science,” she said. “Immunizations have decades worth of science behind them.”

Winnipeg police were on the scene throughout the protest on Monday. 

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