Protesters against pandemic measures rally at Montreal's Jarry Park

Protesters in Montreal calling for the end of COVID-19 restrictions marched through the streets of Villeray, ahead of a planned convoy to Ottawa on Saturday.

Demonstrators marched in residential Villeray, ahead of planned convoy to Ottawa

Demonstrators marched through Villeray, in Montreal, Saturday, calling for the end of pandemic measures including vaccine passports. The Quebec government said this week that it was not ruling out suspending vaccine passports at some point. (Radio-Canada/Mathieu Wagner)

Protesters in Montreal calling for the end of COVID-19 measures marched through the streets of Villeray, ahead of a planned convoy to Ottawa on Saturday.

Demonstrators, some waving Canadian and Quebec flags and carrying signs against vaccine passports, gathered in Jarry Park this morning. The crowd, including some children, began marching along Jarry Street, before turning down the more residential Chateaubriand Avenue.

"With most countries opening up, I just don't understand why this is going on any longer," said Daniel Gallino, one of the attendees. 

Organizers invited protesters to join with convoys coming from the Beauce and the Eastern Townships who are headed to Ottawa early this afternoon.

Demonstrators in Montreal's Villeray neighbourhood hold signs in support of People's Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier. In a speech to the crowd, Bernier said vaccine mandates constitute a form of discrimination against the unvaccinated. (Radio-Canada/Mathieu Wagner)

Some of the demonstrators returned to Jarry Park after the march to listen to speeches, which included Maxime Bernier, leader of the People's Party of Canada. He says vaccine mandates constitute a form of discrimination against the unvaccinated, and called for the end of COVID-19 restrictions immediately.

Organizers also told the crowd there will be another protest against COVID-19 restrictions in Quebec City next Saturday.

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Counter protest denounces far-right

A smaller group of counter-protesters also held a short march through Villeray, calling the movement against pandemic measures "a front for the far-right."

"While some people attending the Freedom Convoy protests are just opposed to vaccine mandates or lockdowns, it's inexcusable to be expressing those views alongside known far-right actors, including conspiracy theorists promoting debunked and false viewpoints," organizers of the counter-protest wrote on Facebook.

A smaller group of counter-protesters also marched in Villeray, calling the broader Freedom Convoy movement against pandemic restrictions 'a front for the far-right,' while also criticizing the government's pandemic response. (Radio-Canada/Mathieu Wagner)

Counter-protest organizers emphasized their own criticism of government responses to the pandemic, writing that they "support pandemic mitigation measures rooted in mutual aid, support, care and solidarity," but not those based in "coercion."

Montreal police were on hand throughout both the protest march and counter protest.

Alex Pelchat lives in the neighbourhood, and said he was disappointed to see that protests against COVID-19 restrictions have attracted many people on the far-right.     

The protest comes after Quebec's health minister, Christian Dubé, said earlier this week that the government has not ruled out the possibility that vaccine mandates could be suspended at some point, should the province's public health authorities make that recommendation.

Quebec's interim director of public health, Dr. Luc Boileau, said the use of mandates will be reassessed after other COVID-119 restrictions are loosened on March 14.

With files from Valeria Cori-Manocchio, Radio-Canada