Dozens attend anti-vaccine protest outside Toronto General Hospital amid widespread condemnation
Published Monday, September 13, 2021 5:23AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 13, 2021 5:12PM EDT
Dozens of anti-vaccine protesters gathered outside Toronto General Hospital on Monday afternoon despite pleas from Mayor John Tory urging organizers to reconsider their “irresponsible” and “cowardly” choice of venue.
An organization calling itself Canadian Frontline Nurses organized “silent vigils” for all 10 provinces as a way to protest vaccine mandates and other public health measures.
The group said that they wanted to “stand together for informed consent and medical freedoms.”
But their decision to protest outside hospitals, including Toronto General and the Ottawa Hospital, drew widespread condemnation from healthcare representatives and public officials, including Tory.
“I think these demonstrations are irresponsible, they are misdirected and they are abusive. Where do we get off making the very people who are going to provide healthcare to those who are sick the victims of a political argument?” the mayor said following a press conference earlier on Monday morning. “Who is going to look after any of these people that are protesting if they get sick? It is the very same people inside that hospital building who they are obstructing from going to work and abusing. It is just beyond comprehension.”
The demonstration got underway at around 2 p.m. and wrapped up a few hours later.
A large officer presence was visible during the protest but police said on Twitter that there were “no reports of hospital staff or patients being obstructed” and “no disruption to hospital services.”
Meanwhile, a few dozens counter protesters did gather along University Avenue to show support for healthcare workers, including a number of doctors and nurses from nearby hospitals.
“I think everyone has a right to voice their opinion but there are no laws written in the building behind us. These are people trying to care for the sick and the injured and I think if people want to voice their opinion they should do so but not on this sacred ground,” emergency room physician Dr. Raghu Venugopal told CP24. “People have come here to be healed, not to be harassed, not to be intimidated and not to be protested against.”
Second time this month that a hospital has been targeted
Earlier this month hundreds of demonstrators blocked traffic outside Toronto General Hospital as they protested vaccine mandates and shared misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.
Following that protest the Ontario Medical Association issued a statement accusing the demonstrators of “inflicting moral injury on health care workers who are working tirelessly on the frontlines caring for patients sick and dying from this dangerous virus.”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also vowed to bring forward legislation to create “public health safety zones” in an effort to reduce harassment outside hospitals, though the legislature is not schedule to sit until October.
In a series of messages posted to Twitter on Monday, The University Health Network called today’s protests “disheartening.”
They said that staff at UHN “have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic” to keep the community safe “and deserve that same right to safety when coming to work.”
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, who is an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital, also weighed in on the protests while speaking with CP24.
He said that he heard from several colleagues who were planning not come to work today due to the protests.
“It is kind of ridiculous. People are free to protest whatever they like. But if you are going to start causing a huge commotion outside a hospital you really have to rethink what you are doing,” he said.
Toronto police have said that they will be present at today’s protest and that they will lay charges if hospital operations and public safety is “disrupted in any way.”