Lining the steps of city hall, holding signs and standing in silence, hundreds of protesters gathered in Lethbridge for a rally against mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for front-line workers, including firefighters, EMS, police officers and nurses.
Global News approached some of the protestors, who declined to be interviewed, but said it was a peaceful protest, asking for freedom of choice when it comes to vaccines.
It’s unclear if anyone from Lethbridge Fire and EMS or Lethbridge Police was in attendance.
“If off-duty employees are engaged in these activities, they have the same rights of every individual in the community, which includes the right to peaceful protest and expression of their opinions,” Lethbridge Police chief Shahin Mehdizadeh said.
When asked about the possibility of city employees attending the event, the city of Lethbridge responded in a statement, saying: “What staff do in their personal time is up to them as long as it doesn’t contravene any policies or guidelines of their employment contract.”
For Lethbridge Fire and EMS staff, vaccines will become mandatory under Alberta Health Services regulations.
“Because our firefighters are dually-trained as paramedics and we are contracted by AHS to provide EMS services, our fire and EMS staff are mandated to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 31 as per our AHS contract,” the city said.
According to Mehdizadeh, vaccinations are not currently mandatory for LPS officers.
“We want to mirror and parallel whatever protocol and guidelines come for any city employee,” Mehdizadeh said.
“At this point, we will just wait and see what those decisions are and follow (them.)”
The rally was the second of its kind in Lethbridge this week, with a similar event held on Sunday.
Canada’s top doctor has said vaccine mandates have helped with uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine as cases continue to surge in the fourth wave of the pandemic.