About two dozen demonstrators gathered outside Rolly’s Restaurant in Hope, B.C. on Friday, to support the eatery which had its business and liquor licences pulled for defying the province’s vaccine passport system this week.
“It’s not fair for them to shut down this restaurant,” longtime Hope resident Donna Burns said.
“These are community people, they make their living here. It’s important for them to be here. It’s important for them, it’s important for us.”
Some speakers pointed to the potential loss of jobs a six-month shutdown would mean for the community. The operators say about 40 people work at Rolly’s.
Others at the rally displayed a more radical bent, alleging vaccine passports were a path to tyranny or communism, and bore signs and shirts calling vaccination child abuse or equating being unvaccinated to the plight of Jews in the Holocaust.
The restaurant’s owners came out to thank the crowd for their support, but declined an interview with Global News.
“I’m disappointed they went this route,” District of Hope Mayor Peter Robb said of Rolly’s Restaurant’s stand, adding that the vaccine issue was “dividing the town.”
“It’s not good publicity for the community. We still have a third of our community not vaccinated, and that’s troubling to me.”
Vaccination rates have lagged not just in Hope, but in the remainder of the Eastern Fraser Valley.
Just 76 per cent of eligible people in the Hope local health area have had their first dose and 79 per cent in Chilliwack — both well below the provincial average of 88.6 per cent.
The numbers are even worse for full immunization, with just 68 per cent of Hope-area residents having two doses and 72 per cent in Chilliwack.
Those same communities have the highest per-capita case rates in Fraser Health, with Chilliwack reporting 39 cases per 100,000 residents and Hope reporting 29 per 100,000.
For comparison, the rate per 100,000 in Surrey is nine, and Vancouver’s West Side is three.
“This is largely now a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Health Minister Adrian Dix told CKNW’s The Simi Sara Show Friday.
“Age adjusted, you’re 53 times more likely to die if you’re unvaccinated, 56 times more likely to be hospitalized.”
Enforcement against Rolly’s, he said, was now in Fraser Health’s hands.
The restaurant has already been handed a $2,300 fine for breaking a provincial health order, and faces a $100 fine per day from the District of Hope for operating without a business licence.
It could also face further sanctions for operating without a liquor licence, while Fraser Health could seek an injunction to force it to close.
Back at Rolly’s, however, supporters appeared ready to keep up the fight, convinced they were on the right side of a David versus Goliath battle.
“We are being divided, we are being encouraged to fight each other on social media,” demonstrator Paul Allen told the crowd.
“I’ve been denied services at breakfast places where it’s no different than Tim Hortons, it’s no different than McDonalds — how is that good for my health.”View link »