Dozens gather for Whitehorse protest against COVID-19 restrictions
Attendees shared misinformation about masks and vaccines
Roughly 40 people gathered in front of the Yukon Legislative Assembly in Whitehorse to protest ongoing public health restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.
Those restrictions include a requirement to wear masks in indoor spaces, and a mandatory 14-day isolation period for new entrants to the territory.
The territory currently has zero active cases of COVID-19 and has seen 74 cases among residents since the beginning of the pandemic.
Carrying signs that read "mask free, way to be" and "masking children is criminal", attendees objected to Yukon's COVID-19 protocols and shared misinformation about health risks posed by masks and vaccines.
Two members of the crowd expressed disdain for a CBC reporter present at the scene, calling the CBC "fake news" and accusing the reporter of being "paid off by the Trudeau government." A CBC vehicle was booed as the reporter left the protest.
The protest drew some signs of support from passing motorists. Few attendees wore masks.
Health officials, politicians condemn protest
Asked about the protest earlier in the week, the territory's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley warned of the dangers of misinformation.
"There is a lot of misleading information about vaccines and vaccine effectiveness. There is misleading information about lab testing and reliability of lab tests. There's misinformation even about the pandemic and even the perception of whether it exists or not," he said. "And there are various conspiracy theories.
"I think all of these can play on people's minds, especially when people are stressed."
The protest has been roundly rejected by Yukon politicians, who are in the final stretch of a territorial election campaign, with the vote taking place on April 12.
On Facebook, the Yukon Liberals said the party "does not support gathering in large numbers at this point in the pandemic.
"There are other ways to voice disagreement with government," the post reads. "Please do not endanger the lives of Yukoners."
First Nations back restrictions
Earlier in the week, two Yukon First Nations voiced their support for maintaining COVID-19 restrictions and protocols.
Chief Doris Bill of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation said her council was unanimous in support of issuing a statement calling for restrictions to continue.
"I know Chief Medical Officer Hanley is under increasing pressure to lift the restrictions," she said. "But [I] don't think now is the time to ease up.
"When you look at what's happening across the country, various jurisdictions are shutting down because the variant is getting out of control," she said. "We've come this far because of the restrictions that we have put in place. And I believe that those restrictions are keeping us all safe."
Chief Kristina Kane said councillors with the Ta'an Kwäch'än Council agree.
"We fully support [keeping restrictions in place]," she said. "We are also really encouraging people to get out and get their vaccinations."
"Continuing to shut down the borders and keep our communities and families safe, I think that is most important right now."
With files from Philippe Morin