Montreal mayor slams anti-vax protesters who gather in front of schools, hospital
City lawyers looking into what can be done about protests that interrupt education, medicine
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says it's "disgusting" that anti-vaccination protesters gathered in front of schools last week, and then later in front of the city's largest hospital.
It's intimidation, and "it's unacceptable," said Plante, who didn't mince words during an impromptu news conference Monday at city hall after a small demonstration at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC).
Plante said city lawyers are looking to see what can be done about this type of demonstration in front of medical facilities, schools or public vaccination sites. She said she is calling on the Quebec government to intervene.
Meanwhile, Plante said Montreal police will continue to assist as needed.
"If you don't agree with vaccinations, fine," said Plante. "But to prevent people from helping others, or from studying, no."
Health-care workers deserve support, not intimidation, she said.
WATCH | Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says city will use tools to stop protests:
Protests disrupt traffic in other parts of Canada
There are stories of anti-vaccine protests in Ontario and Western Canada blocking traffic and ambulances, she said, and that puts people's lives in danger.
Beyond the risk to emergency patients, she said intimidation is the last thing health-care workers need after so many difficult months of toiling away during the pandemic.
The National Health Freedom Movement event in front of the MUHC Monday was organized by the Canadian Frontline Nurses group which says it's on a mission to unite nurses, educate the public and bring ethics back into health care.
The group was founded by two Ontario nurses who have promoted conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and attended rallies in the U.S. for those who think the pandemic is a "fraud."
The group also organized protests in the Toronto area on Monday and over the weekend.
"The protests we're seeing outside of hospitals are selfish, cowardly and reckless," wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Twitter.
"Our health care workers have sacrificed so much to keep us all safe during this pandemic. They don't deserve this kind of treatment — not now, not ever. Leave our health care workers alone."
Union head condemns location of protest
In Montreal, the anti-vaccination demonstration was met by a larger counter-protest led by health-care workers.
Robert Lagueux, head of the MUHC's employees union, said he does not support holding protests in front of the MUHC where, among others, the Children's and Shriners are located.
He said parents and kids are dealing with enough stress if they are headed to the hospital and don't need the added anxiety of protesters gathering out front.
Manifester est un droit. Mais la ligne a été franchie, et ça doit cesser immédiatement. Intimider des enfants et des travailleurs de la santé, c’est non. Nous mettons tout en oeuvre pour protéger la population, nos bâtiments municipaux et les services de santé. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/polmtl?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#polmtl</a>—@Val_Plante
On top of everything, he said, the staff is burned out and exhausted. The protest is demoralizing, he said.
"I would have much preferred they had their protest in front of a government office," he said. "Everybody has a right to protest, but in this case, the location was not ideal."
On Twitter Monday, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said hospitals are the wrong target for anti-vaccine protests while "it is mainly the unvaccinated that clog our health network."
"Trying to block access to hospitals is not helping the debate," he said. "Police will closely monitor the demonstrations."
In Quebec, the vast majority of people getting seriously ill these days are not adequately vaccinated.
Last week, the health minister said nine out of ten people who were admitted to intensive care units due to COVID-19 on Sept. 8 were not adequately vaccinated.
Out of the 21 patients admitted to hospital on that same day, 15 were not adequately vaccinated.
"Conclusion: vaccinations help reduce hospitalizations and avoid intensive care," Dubé tweeted.
with files from Shuyee Lee