Parents condemn mask, vaccine protesters targeting kids at Winnipeg elementary school

Parents and staff at a Winnipeg elementary school are calling on protesters to stop harassing children after a small group of people showed up twice to yell at kids to take their masks off and not get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

'Yelling at kids is unacceptable,' says mother after 2nd incident at River Elm School

Protesters have shown up twice at River Elm School to yell at children and staff about not wearing masks or getting the COVID-19 vaccine. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

Parents and staff at a Winnipeg elementary school are calling on protesters to stop harassing children after they showed up twice to yell at kids to take their masks off and not get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The first incident happened at lunchtime on Jan. 31, the day the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority held a pop-up vaccine clinic at River Elm Elementary School in Elmwood.

In a memo to parents, the school's principal said a small group of people protesting the use of vaccines and masks shouted at students and staff in the playground from the sidewalk, so students were brought inside and recess was made indoors for the afternoon.

Video posted online of the first incident shows a woman standing outside the school and yelling through the chain link fence, "Don't take the jab, kids!"

"My daughters came home, they weren't very happy about it, they were scared," said Nalynn Mondor, whose 11-year-old and seven-year-old daughters go to the school. 

She said her daughters told her the group was making sheep sounds and yelling at them to not get the vaccine. 

"They had to go inside. They wanted to be outside during recess. Both of my girls are vaccinated, they had both of their vaccines already. And yelling at kids is unacceptable," she said. 

She said she saw a truck with "no mandates" on the back window and believes the protesters are parents. The woman in the video identifies herself as the mother of a child at the school.

More harassment

On Monday, a similar incident occurred, prompting the principal to send out a second memo to some parents. She wrote that someone in a black vehicle stopped in front of the playground, yelled at the students to take their masks off and about other things like "freedom."

The principal wrote the Winnipeg Police Service was informed and at no time were the students in any danger. 

Const. Dani McKinnon said Winnipeg police were made aware of the incidents. Officers investigated and spoke to parties involved, McKinnon said, adding "comments were shouted at students from an individual not on school property."

A spokesperson for the Winnipeg School Division said they could not comment as police are investigating.

Another mother with children at River Elm School said she saw the protesters gathered at the school on Jan. 31 and is "concerned."

"I think they're just against the vaccine. And that's fine, they can be. But don't put it on the kids. Don't talk to the kids. That's their parents' job, not theirs," said the mother, who CBC is not naming because she fears reprisal for speaking out.

In the video posted of the first incident, the woman, who is Indigenous, is wearing an orange shirt and carries an orange flag that reads "Every Child Matters." 

"I felt it sent mixed messages, because that's not what that sign is about. I thought they used it the wrong way," said the mother. 

The "Every Child Matters" movement acknowledges harms of residential schools on Indigenous children and honours the thousands who died in the federally funded, church-run boarding schools. 

The mother added River Elm School is in a low-income community, and since accessing the vaccine had been difficult for some, the vaccine clinic was brought to the school to help those families. She said she doesn't want any child to feel pressure either way about vaccines.

"It bothers me because the people who are doing it feel they have the right to harass the children and staff and that's not OK."

Mondor agrees, adding those people need to take their protest elsewhere. She said there was a similar protest at Elmwood High School, where her eldest goes, during their vaccine clinic. 

"I understand everyone has the freedom to protest, the right to protest, but not at schools. You shouldn't be doing that to kids, that's all," she said.