MONTREAL -- On the same day the Quebec government announced severe fines for violating public health regulations, several hundred people gathered in Lafontaine Park to protest mask requirements.

The demonstrators flew Quebec, Canada and United States flags after meeting at 5 p.m. to denounce government regulations, as well as what they called media “propaganda.”

One of the many flags at the anti-mask rally

A dozen speakers took turns questioning the effectiveness of wearing masks and social distancing in curbing the spread of COVID-19. They also said they would refuse to be inoculated when a COVID-19 vaccine is made available, which they claimed would be a pretext for government control.

“We are not anti-mask, we respect pro-mask and pro-vaccine people, but we have the right to say 'No thank you,'” said speaker Daniel Pilon.

Public Health Canada, the World Health Organization, the American Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and numerous other public health organizations have stressed the importance of masks and distancing in combating COVID-19.

Anti-masker in Montreal

Members of the Montreal police department were on the scene to ensure demonstrators maintained a distance of two metres between each other.

On Wednesday, Premier Francois Legault announced that as of midnight, when Montreal will be re-designated a COVID-19 red zone, people who gather in public or private places or refuse to wear masks in public spaces could be fined up to $1,000.