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Hundreds in Whitehorse attend protests against COVID-19 health restrictions

Hundreds of people attended two separate protests in Whitehorse this weekend, to voice their disapproval of current public health restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Two protests took place over the weekend, where attendees denounced vaccine mandates and lockdowns

People gathered in Shipyard's Park on Jan. 22 to voice their disapproval of current COVID-19 public health restrictions. (Sissi De Flaviis/CBC)

Hundreds of people attended two separate protests in Whitehorse this weekend, to voice their disapproval of current public health restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In Whitehorse, one protest was organized by an organization called Yukon Rise Up and a group that calls itself Yukon Freedom.

Although these types of gatherings have taken place in the city since the summer of 2021, the two-day protests attracted its biggest audience yet, said Bruce Pedersen, a spokesperson for Yukon Rise Up.

"We need medicine, we need the pharmaceutical companies, but we also need people to say, 'hey, I need to take charge of my own health,' and that's that's what is happening more and more," Pedersen said.

The protest on Saturday was part of the Worldwide Rally for Freedom, a series of protests that occurred in other cities.

The protests come as infections in the territory reach record highs. 

It took place in front of the Shipyards' Park sign where people in attendance held signs, talked among each other and waved the Canadian flag as people who drove by either honked their horns or shook their heads.

"We want people to have choices whether to wear masks or not and have the freedom of choice of their own health," said Pedersen who has lived in Whitehorse for 21 years.

Pedersen said he wants the federal government to open borders for travelling, remove the mandatory mask mandates and treat the pandemic as the flu season.

People at the weekend rally on Saturday. (Sissi De Flaviis/CBC)

On Sunday, a similar sentiment brought hundreds of vehicles to downtown Whitehorse.

This convoy was organized by local transportation industry members in response to the recent US-Canada border restrictions for unvaccinated truckers.

Ross Mercer runs a local transportation business, Mercer Contracting, which does cross-border transportation from Whitehorse to Alaska.

He says he finds the new border restrictions confusing.

Truckers crossing the border are now required to get vaccinated or face a 14-day quarantine when crossing the Canada-U.S. border.

"We're hailed as heroes, as essential workers, you see the signs around, 'thank you, truckers'... if anybody can't show proof of vaccination [they] can't go across the border for what's been deemed an essential service up until now," Mercer said.

Mercer said he is going to work around the new mandate to continue his operations as he has a number of vaccinated employees.

Mercer said regardless of the views on vaccine mandates and the government's approach, he hopes people in the Yukon remember to have individual conversations with others who think differently. 

"Now we're suddenly stigmatising and condemning and attaching names like racist and misogynist and anti-vaxxer to a group of people that may very well be vaccinated for that matter, but still have a very serious concern with the government," he said.

"Some of my best friends have different opinions on these things and we're all the same family members and we're all the same friends, we're all the same newcomers that we were two years ago. And I think it's really important to remember that."

The "Convoy to End Mandates" took place on Jan. 23 in downtown Whitehorse. (Sissi De Flaviis/CBC)

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said both protests were organized by Yukon Rise Up and the Yukon Freedom Party. In fact, one protest was partially organized by Yukon Freedom, and not the Yukon Freedom Party. As well, the Sunday protest was organized by local transportation industry members.
    Jan 24, 2022 8:15 AM CT

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