MONTREAL -- Thousands of citizens gathered in Montreal Saturday to voice their displeasure at the Quebec government's plans to implement a COVID-19 vaccine passport to enter restaurants, bars, gyms and certain non-essential venues.

"I think it's unconstitutional and it's also immoral," said David Freih, a lawyer. "It's ever-encroaching. It never ends."

Organizers from Québec Debout say the "Non a la passe sanitaire!" (No to the health pass) demonstration is to show the discriminatory aspect of the passport. The group was also behind protests against public health measures last May. 

"The planned implementation of the health pass (proof of vaccination for restaurants, cinemas, sports teams, educational institutions, etc...) is an unprecedented prejudice for the population and is highly discriminatory," the event page reads. "We must say no together."

Among those who gathered, several questioned the official COVID-19 death toll and science behind vaccines, citing discredited conspiracy theories. 

Starting at 2 p.m., marchers headed down Rene-Levesque Blvd. to the Place des Festivals, where several speakers addressed the crowd. Co-organizer Jonathan Hamelin said the protests will continue until a real debate on vaccine passports is held. 

Quebec's opposition parties said the provincial government's refusal to hold a debate in the legislature on its plan to impose a vaccine passport system reflects a larger problem with its use of emergency powers.

Premier François Legault responded by saying a debate isn't needed on his government's decision to require Quebecers to show proof of vaccination before they enter businesses such as bars and restaurants.

The health order is to begin across the province on Sept. 1.

-- With files from The Canadian Press.