Several hundred people gathered outside the Cowichan District Hospital in Duncan on Wednesday afternoon to protest provincial health measures regarding COVID-19, specifically the recently announced vaccine card program.
The protest was one of several held across B.C. on Wednesday afternoon, including a massive event at the Legislature in Victoria.
People at the Duncan protest held signs bearing slogans such as “No medical apartheid,” “My body my choice,” and “Freedom is the right to choose,” and the URLs of COVID conspiracy theory websites.
Protesters mostly gathered in the green space between the parking lot and the hospital, but also lined nearby Gibbins Road. Police were on hand, positioned between the line of protesters and the hospital itself.
Premier John Horgan and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the new measures on Aug. 30, citing statistics that show 90 per cent of new coronavirus cases are in people who haven’t been fully vaccinated.
The vaccine card comes into effect with one dose being required for entry into many non-essential businesses including indoor ticketed events, bars and restaurants and fitness centres as of Sept. 13. As of Oct. 24, patrons will be required to be fully vaccinated.
Island Health president and CEO Kathy MacNeil issued a statement in response to the protests, expressing concerns about how the protesters interfered with access to facilities and treated health care workers.
“I am proud my country supports the democratic right to peaceful protest,” she said. “However, some of today’s protests disrupted safe access to health care facilities. Members of Island Health care teams were verbally abused as they came to and left work during these protests, and in at least one case a health-care team member was physically assaulted.
“What happened to our health-care teams today is not acceptable to me nor to the people and communities they serve. Our health-care teams deserve respect and support, no matter what personal beliefs we hold.
“To everyone who supports our amazing health-care workers, and especially for your support today, thank you. It means the world to us at Island Health.”
—With a file from Kelowna Capital News