A small group of nurses, part of a nationwide organization called Canadian Frontline Nurses, staged what was described as a silent vigil Monday afternoon outside the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal.
They brought flowers in a show of support to staff and family members.
“I think we are all grieving at this present moment from the last 18 months,” said organizer Nordia German. “We just want to show people that … we’re all in this together.”
The group said it wants to highlight the consequences of the health measures that have been put in place since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
More specifically, the group doesn’t believe vaccinations should be mandatory.
In Quebec, all health-care workers must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 15 or risk being suspended without pay. The government is also requiring proof of vaccination for hospital visits and access to some non-essential services for Quebecers aged 13 and over.
Monday’s vigil was briefly interrupted by a small group of anti-vaxxers who came to show their support for the nurses.
Organizers, however, were quick to distance themselves from the protesters, specifying the group is not against the COVID-19 vaccine but rather supports medical freedom.
“I am for informed consent, I am for freedom of choice,” German said. “We are all bio-individuals so what is good for one person is not necessarily good for another.”
Jessica, who refused to give her last name, is another nurse who helped organize Monday’s silent vigil.
She said she was also fighting for freedom of choice, something she says learned during her studies.
“We were taught in our nursing school it’s freedom of choice,” she said. “We should always respect our patients’ decisions and it should be the same for us.”
Jessica said she also wanted to show her support to other health-care workers.
“They are not alone, it’s OK. if you don’t want the injection, it shouldn’t be imposed on you,” she said.
Jenika Delisle Trunzo, a clinical coordinator at the Cedars Cancer Centre observed the vigil as she took her lunch break.
“Everybody is entitled to their opinion, ” she told Global News, “We live in a free country that’s what makes being a Canadian so great.”
But when it comes to being vaccinated against COVID-19, Delisle Trunzo believes it’s the right thing to do.
“If you’re a health-care worker it’s a duty to get all your vaccines and make sure your health is up to date,” she said. “We’re here to protect the public and especially for work with immunosuppressed patients, it’s your duty to protect yourself and protect others.”
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante took a much harder stance.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, she said she was outraged after hearing of an anti-vaccination protest outside the hospital.
“For anti-vaxxers to go and harass health-care workers, who have given everything and are on the front, it’s not normal, it’s not acceptable,” she said.
She also pointed to anti-vaccination protests held outside of schools and called them disgusting.
Plante said children go to school to learn not be intimidated by adults and that anti-vaccine protests in front of schools will not be tolerated.
“Police were there the last time and will continue to be there if necessary,” she said.
Plante also spoke of similar protests in other parts of the country, like Toronto, where she said ambulances were blocked from entering the ER area putting innocent lives in danger.
She said it’s fine if people don’t agree with vaccination, but they have no right to impede people from getting vaccinated, going to work to treat patients or going to school to study.
The city is currently examining what legal recourse it has for protests being held outside vaccination centres on Montreal sites.
— with files from Global News’ Gloria Henriquez