Anti-vaccine protesters gathered outside the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) meeting Tuesday night, temporarily interrupting the meeting.
Around 15 minutes into the meeting at 7;15 p.m., protesters can be heard on the livestream loudly yelling and banging on the windows outside the meeting, prompting board members to call a recess until police arrived.
The meeting was paused for approximately 15 minutes before it resumed.
Around 70 to 75 people could be seen on the scene when Global News arrived just after 8:30 p.m., including seven police cars and police officers guarding the doors to stop protesters from entering the building.
“There have been no arrests in relation to the protest. Our role as the police is to remain here to maintain the peace, allow the protesters to peacefully protest while allowing any meeting inside the school to continue,” said relief media officer const. Travis Buckle.
Buckle says he is unaware of any protests trying to enter the building but they were asked to come after protestors started banging on the windows.
On Tuesday night the board was set to vote on whether they would send a letter to the provincial government, urging them to add COVID-19 vaccines to the list of compulsory vaccines for students.
The motion was later withdrawn during the meeting.
“It is my understanding that the Chief Medical Officer of Health is currently reviewing this issue, and the Ontario Public School Board Association will advocate on behalf of all Boards. Thus, I withdrew the motion,” said Trustee Rahman.
The meeting was held at Louise Arbour French Immersion elementary school in the One World Centre, Tuesday night. The meeting was moved from the board office on Dundas Street East after a fire broke out in the basement of the TVDSB main office last Thursday.
Read more: TVDSB trustees defer decisions on mandatory vaccines, COVID-19 safety to allow for public input
Later in the meeting, trustees unanimously approved a recommendation to set up an alternative means to collect public input on mandatory vaccine policies.
The decision to have a separate forum to allow people to give public input was prompted by a number of people requesting to speak on the issue.
“For those in attendance under siege from hundreds of protesters banging on the widows on and threatening us here, the safety of staff and trustees needs to be paramount to ever have public input ever again,” TVDSB director of education Mark Fisher said later in the night.
“It’s been a very disturbing evening. I can’t stress enough how challenging this meeting has been.”
Trustee Sean Hunt said it’s important to not lump all people wanting to provide public input on vaccines into the same category with the people outside the board office who may be outside the office “threatening”.
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In a statement, the board said in recent days anti-vaccine supporters have flooded social media with false reports the Board was attempting to mandate vaccinations for students.
“This is false information. The Board has no authority to mandate student COVID-19 vaccinations and was never part of the agenda,” Fisher said.
Dr. Chris Mackie, Medical Officer of Health with the Middlesex-London Health Unit, offered his support for Thames Valley’s efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in schools.
“Our community is in an ongoing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Mackie.
“The Health Unit is supportive of the Thames Valley District School Board’s efforts to work with public health and increase vaccination rates among its staff members and eligible students.”