Across Canada, hundreds of anti-mask and anti-lockdown rallies have taken place, leaving Canadians confused and frustrated by the lack of care these protests exhibit. A common topic brought up when speaking about these protests has to do with the police presence (or lack thereof) since they often take place in cities that are under a stay-at-home order or lockdown. This leaves many with questions about why these large protests, without masks or social distancing, are allowed at all. Many even note that these protests are advertised days or weeks ahead and that the police are aware of when/ where they will be taking place. In contrast to the police response to protests like the Black Lives Matter protests many are quick to point out the very violent and destructive police presence, vs. what seems to be, the police letting these anti-lockdown protests happen.
Why are the police allowing Anti-Mask and Anti-Lockdown Protests to happen?
Canadians are frustrated with the fact that not only are these protests taking place but also at the fact that the people attending are not being fined or held accountable when they are in direct defiance of the province-wide stay-at-home order. In Toronto, these protests have become a weekly occurrence, and residents of the city have expressed their concerns about the individuals participating in them. There are stories dating back months that include the violent actions of these protestors against people simply for wearing a mask and passing by. Still, there are typically only a handful of people who are actually served a fine for participating or being an organizer.
Typically, the police in these situations are seen in the vicinity of these rallies, taking photos to later identify individuals taking part in the protests, but many reports show that only a handful of people are fined. There is a lot of confusion surrounding the legality of these rallies and people’s right to protest.
What about our right to protest?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen a variety of protests worldwide for many global issues. The Black Lives Matter protests that began last summer, to the recent protests in solidarity with Palestine, we saw large groups of people gather and march. So, what makes these anti-lockdown protests any different? Well, many things.
For starters, the BLM protests were in response to the blatant murder and police brutality that continues to take place against Black people. These protests were organized with the intent to educate and to help fight against white supremacy, racism and to defund and abolish the current police system that harms people of color at disproportionate rates. Individuals at these protests followed COVID-19 restrictions, wore masks to the protest, and socially distanced. Anyone participating in these protests was urged to get tested if they experienced any symptoms of COVID-19. It’s safe to say that the organizers of these protests took into consideration the health and wellness of not only those participating but the health of the general public as well.
This is where the anti-lockdown protests are very different.
Anti-mask and anti-lockdown rallies do not take into consideration the health and wellness of the general public. They go against everything we are being asked of by doctors and the leaders in charge. They claim to be protesting the “oppression” they are experiencing and the infringement of their rights, when these mask mandates and lockdowns are put in place to protect people, workers, and to give relief to the hospitals that have been so overrun the past year. Those who participate in these protests fail to look at the bigger picture and beyond themselves. Much of our responsibility as individuals is to respect others in society and to do our part in ending this pandemic. Nothing about marching mask-less in the streets and harassing people who do choose to wear a mask is going to end the pandemic sooner.
Many Ontarians have been wondering why the Ford government hasn’t followed in Nova Scotia’s footsteps with their recent injunction to ban all anti-public health protests. The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia is now preventing the illegal gatherings of anti-mask and anti-lockdown protests due to their state of emergency and even the promotion of these protests on social media.
Read more about the injunction here:
WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER
The burnout that people are feeling at this point is valid; we have all been through so much in the past year and it’s okay to feel frustrated and angry about all that we have sacrificed individually, but we are getting so close to the end! People are getting vaccinated, cases are going down, and it finally seems as if there is an end in sight, but we will experience more normality when we collectively work together. Rather than deciding to no longer follow the rules and restrictions set out for our safety out of selfishness, we can all support one another and hopefully have at least part of a normal summer!
It’s incredibly important to be educated about COVID-19, the statistics, symptoms, vaccine information, etc. COVID-19 has affected people around the world, it is not up to you to decide whether this pandemic is real; it may not have directly affected you, but that does not mean it hasn’t directly affected others. Think of those who have lost family members, friends, or coworkers. Think of the hospital staff who sacrifice their health every day to treat their patients and think of the frontline workers who have worked through the entire past year and made it possible for you to continue your everyday life.