A rally for responsibility has been planned to demonstrate support for organizations, workers and initiatives that have been put in place to deal with pandemic.
Robert Hackett, a planned participant in the event, said an ad hoc group of residents is planning a peaceful and lawful rally in support of public health, health-care workers and democracy, and is against far-right extremism evident in the so-called freedom convoy. Hackett said a recent online Peak poll suggested more than 80 per cent of qathet region residents opposed the convoy’s tactics and/or goals, yet there has been public silence for too long.
The rally has been organized for Saturday, February 26, at the intersection of Joyce Avenue and Alberni Street, at 10:30 am.
“It’s what’s called an intersaction, a lawful and peaceful statement,” said Hackett. “There’s an alternative voice out there, a more productive and forward-looking one.”
Hackett said the group has been inviting people to the rally through personal contacts and email, but if a public statement is being made, participation from supportive community members is welcome.
He said the intersaction rally is where a group of people congregates and moves legally across the intersection when the walk light flashes.
“We can do a loop around the intersection, carrying signs,” said Hackett. “All of the traffic that comes by sees the message.”
Hackett said those participating in the rally are in complete support of the health-care and frontline workers who have functioned at a high and demanding level during the pandemic.
He added that there are some criticisms to be made regarding how the pandemic has been handled by various governments across Canada.
“We think there should be more support for workers and better-paid sick leave,” said Hackett. “It’s been increased modestly in BC to five days, I believe. Workers’ organizations were asking for 10 days.
“There should be some accommodation for people who have medical reasons to not take the vaccine, but by and large, we have to trust the public authorities in this respect. None of us are uncritical of government, but I think the far-right organizers of the convoy have an automatic rejection of anything the government does. They are trying to throw sand in the wheels of the government, even when it does positive things.”
Hackett said those who participated in the freedom convoy are a small number compared to the more than 36,000 COVID-19 deaths in Canada. He said people have died waiting for medical attention because beds have been occupied with COVID-19 patients who chose not to be vaccinated.
“The stress on the workers must be awful so we want to send a statement of love and support to them as part of it,” said Hackett. “They’ve taken a lot of unnecessary abuse and it’s really disgraceful when you think about it.
“We wanted to make a public statement. We know public opinion is with us but it needs a more public voice and a public presence. So, we’re calling it a rally for responsibility. We’re doing it as concerned individuals.”
Hackett said the freedom convoy organizers have diverted political discussion in Canada in unproductive ways.
“We’re debating the wrong things,” said Hackett. “We should be debating about how to get out of the pandemic and how to support workers, plus how to recover the economy.”
Mandates not irrational, says participant
Fred Guerin, who is also planning to attend the rally, said vaccine mandates can appear to be an infringement to people’s freedom, so he does understand that side of things from the perspective of people who are in the convoy.
“Nobody likes the idea of being coerced into putting something into their bodies they don’t want,” said Guerin. “Our bodies are sovereign. But, we are also collectively faced with a virus that has affected 500 million people and caused the deaths of more than six million. So, vaccine mandates are not an irrational or freedom-destroying response in that context.
“Our own charter of rights acknowledges that we don’t live in isolation and our individual freedom is not absolute. The charter says governments can limit freedoms in reasonable ways for the good of everyone. That’s what’s behind our rally. None of us like our freedoms limited but we can see that in certain cases, that makes good sense, and especially in the case of pandemics, where the whole idea behind the growth of the pandemic is that the more people are infected, the more the virus gets a chance to replicate and mutate.”
Guerin said MRNA vaccines are not perfect, but vaccines work and save lives.
“Historically, we’ve seen vaccines have all but eliminated diseases such as smallpox, tetanus, polio, rubella and mumps,” said Guerin. “There’s a whole list of them. It’s important to understand this is not a conspiracy to take people’s freedom away. This is an unfortunate but necessary measure we all sort of have to accept if we want to live with each other in a healthy world.”