Toronto Mayor John Tory is against any participation in a protest at hospital doors ahead of a planned anti-vax rally at Toronto General Hospital on Monday. The mayor warned that police are ready to arrest anyone who blocks ambulance access to the facility.
Tory said in a statement Sunday evening,
“We all have a right to protest but abusing that right in order to harass people outside a hospital and spread misinformation about vaccines in the middle of the pandemic is unacceptable and beyond the pale.”
“It’s unfair to our healthcare heroes and everyone trying to attend hospitals for treatment.”
In a social media post, Toronto police reiterated this sentiment, noting that while they respect everyone’s right to protest peacefully, ‘hospital operations and public safety cannot be disturbed in any way.’
“Officers will be present and monitoring and charges will be laid where warranted,” they stated.
For weeks, groups opposed to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and related masking and lockdown rules have protested in front of hospitals across the country. Toronto’s Hospital Row is a scheduled gathering point for another rally Monday.
“To see this protest happening just outside of our workplaces and patients being intimidated, health care workers being intimated as well, it’s very disturbing,” Birgit Umaigba, a critical care nurse and Centennial College instructor informed CTV Toronto.
Umaigba knows of many nurses who won’t come to work Monday for fear of meeting protests at hospital doors.
“They are not the place to be yelling and screaming and intimidating,” cautioned Michael Garron Hospital critical care director Dr. Michael Warner. “Especially when so many people on the other side of the doors of those hospitals are suffering from the disease that certain people refuse to get vaccinated for.”
“It’s demoralizing, it’s disheartening,” downtown ICU nurse Vikky Leung revealed to CTV Toronto Sunday.
Leung initiated a change.org petition supporting legislated safe zones around hospitals to avoid bullying, writing that
“it is not okay for anyone to be concerned for their safety, or worried about obstructions when accessing healthcare or going to work to provide care for others.”
Her patients, stated Leung, are especially vulnerable.
“They have to walk through these protests, and it’s scary, when you’re immunocompromised, you don’t know if these people are vaccinated. Likely they’re not— that’s why they’re protesting,” she noted.
Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath is pleading with Ontario Premier Doug Ford to pass a bill that would create “public health safety zones” to lower harassment incidences.
“My Safety Zone bill would make this targeted intimidation a provincial offence. Instead of hiding out, Ford can come back to work and pass my bill to stop the harassment right now,” she tweeted on Sunday.
The legislature has been prorogued until after the federal election.
In the meantime, the premier took to social media to call the protests “selfish, cowardly, and reckless.”
“Our health care workers have sacrificed so much to keep us all safe during this pandemic. They don’t deserve this kind of treatment — not now, not ever. Leave our health care workers alone,” Ford tweeted on Sunday.
Tory stated that Toronto Police Chief James Ramer had promised him that should any protest happen at a hospital, officers would ensure that health-care workers would be protected and patients and ambulance would not be blocked from coming into the building.