Anti-vaccine protesters gather outside Toronto General Hospital as part of nationwide action
TORONTO -- A group of anti-vaccine protesters gathered outside one of Toronto's busiest hospitals Monday after being warned not to harass or obstruct health-care workers.
An organization that calls themselves the Canadian Frontline Nurses orchestrated protests against vaccine certificates in all 10 provinces, including outside Toronto General Hospital.
Organizers said they wanted to take a stand against what they called "tyrannical measures and government overreach."
On Monday, Toronto Mayor John Tory said police would be "keeping a very close eye on these demonstrations" to ensure they don't obstruct any hospital operations.
Police said officers remained at the hospital to "remind the crowd of expected behaviour." There were no reports of any hospital staff or patients being obstructed, police said in a tweet published Monday evening. As well, there were no reports of arrests or injuries related to the demonstration.
Tory said earlier on Monday he supported the police in "taking whatever action is necessary" to protect people seeking medical care and health-care workers.
"I just find it completely unacceptable," Tory said. "It's just inconceivable that anyone could be that irresponsible or that misdirected."
Premier Doug Ford also voiced his opinion about the protests, calling them "selfish, cowardly and reckless."
"Our health-care workers have sacrificed so much to keep us all safe during this pandemic," Ford tweeted Sunday. "They don't deserve this kind of treatment — not now, not ever. Leave our health care workers alone."
Meanwhile, The Ontario Nurses’ Association (RNAO) and the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) issued a joint statement on Sunday calling for “safe zones” to be designated around hospitals.
"We respect democracy and the rights of people to protest but these must not be held anywhere where they block entry and exit to health-care facilities," the statement said. "The RNAO and OMA also say charges must be pressed against anyone engaging in harassment, aggression or hate speech, if these protests take place."
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has also called for safe zones to be declared around hospitals.
"Cancer patients and exhausted health care heroes deserve to be protected from harassment,” Horwath tweeted Monday. "My safety zone bill would make this targeted intimidation a provincial offence."
Ontario’s vaccine certificate program is set to launch on Sept. 22.
With files from The Canadian Press.