Montreal hospital protest attracts low attendance; Mayor Plante condemns anti-vax 'bullying'
MONTREAL -- A vaccine protest outside a major Montreal hospital on Monday -- one of a series of hospital protests across Canada -- appeared to fizzle, at least compared to what was announced by its organizers, with low attendance.
About a dozen protesters arrived at the Glen Hospital on Decarie Blvd. around 2 p.m. to show opposition to Quebec's new vaccine ultimatum, which will force unvaccinated health-care workers into unpaid leave.
However, the action still drew strong words from Montreal's mayor, Valérie Plante, who condemned them along with the protesters who targeted a local high school last week and said she was seeking legal tools to stop all such protests at public institutions.
"I mean, it’s their right to protest, but when it’s about going to school [to] bully kids, that’s a no," Plante said.
"When it’s about going to a hospital [to] bully nurses and all the employees and doctors, that is a no."
ROSES FOR 'SYMPATHY' WITH THE UNVACCINATED
The protesters at the hospital on Monday, mostly women, carried roses. They said the flowers were meant to symbolize their sympathy for health-care workers who are choosing not to get the vaccine.
Though some of the protesters wore scrubs, one woman told CTV that she wasn't actually a nurse herself, but had an administrative job at a hospital.
When asked why she attended the protest, she said she was in favour of free choice and didn't think it was fair to force health-care workers to get vaccines or lose their jobs.
When asked about the importance of protecting patients from infection, she answered that they can just as easily "get sick at the grocery store."
The organizing group, which calls itself Canadian Frontline Nurses, warned Canadians this weekend that protests would take place Monday afternoon at hospitals in all 10 provinces. In Montreal, the Glen was designated.
Politicians and hospital administrators across the country were nervous, with barricades erected outside some of the targeted hospitals.
PLANTE: 'WE WILL USE THE LEGAL TOOLS WE HAVE'
In Toronto and Ottawa, protests that started with a couple of dozen protesters have grown over the course of the afternoon.
However, at least in Montreal, the crowds that were imagined didn't materialize. More than an hour into the protest, nearly as many journalists were there as protesters.
The protesters stayed on the sidewalk of Décarie, just off hospital property, and didn't interfere with patients' coming and going.
Still, at a 2:30 press conference, Mayor Plante said she has no tolerance for this kind of protest, especially considering a more contentious one last week, when adult protesters arrived at a high school that was doing vaccinations and tangled with teachers who were trying to keep them away from students.
A girl at that school died last week, and the protesters also claimed she died from vaccine side effects, though her cause of death hasn't been released.
Plante said she wants the province and the city to all try to stop anti-vaccine protests at public buildings.
At hospitals, "those people are working to save our lives, so my message to [the protesters] today is that for the City of Montreal, it’s not acceptable," she said.
"And if they try to trouble any activities within a municipal building, where we’re doing vaccination, for example, we will use the legal tools we have to stop it."
She invited the ministers of health and education to look respectively at how they can do the same at their own properties, "to protect our kids and our population."
--With files from CTV's Matt Grillo