Organizers of a recent anti-vaccine passport protest at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) have quietly changed the location of a repeat protest scheduled for early next week.
Earlier this week, the group behind the protests, Canadian Frontline Nurses (CFN), advertised a second protest was to be held at VGH on Monday, Sept. 13.
Then, early Friday morning, the group posted an edited flyer to their Facebook page. They changed the protest location to Vancouver City Hall and made the event a silent vigil. Supporters are asked to bring a flower or note for those "affected by COVID measures."
Despite the location change, traffic congestion could still be an issue. The Sept. 1 protest, dubbed the World Wide Walkout and billed mainly as opposition to vaccine passports, saw thousands of protesters take to the streets outside city hall, located just a few blocks away from VGH.
According to the latest flyer, protests at other health-care centres across the country are still going ahead though. In fact, B.C. is now the only province in Canada where a CFN-organized protest will not be held at a hospital or medical centre.
On Thursday, CFN posted a letter defending the controversial Sept. 1 protests, saying it was not an attack on health-care workers or the patients inside, despite the protests at VGH upsetting patients and nurses alike.
While there was no explanation for the change in protest venue provided, CFN has received widespread condemnation not only from figures in local and provincial government but also their own supporters.
‘An absolute right of dissent’
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix addressed the scheduled protest during a media availability Thursday afternoon.
"There is an absolute right of dissent in our country. You're allowed to express your view but to interfere with cancer patients and heart patients and grieving families and people who need to use the emergency rooms... There are places to demonstrate that are not our public hospitals,” Dix said.
"I think demonstrating in these circumstances and interfering with our hospitals and yelling at health-care workers serves no purpose at all," Dix continued.
Similarly, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart also condemned the actions of the protesters, calling them a “new low.”
Stewart said he's been in talks with Vancouver’s chief of police and the local health authority to keep the path to VGH clear for emergency vehicles.
"It'll take a lot of resources away from other policing matters in the city but we want to keep access to the hospital open, and that will be the primary objective," Stewart said.
‘Leave the hospitals alone’
The main message the mayor wants to send to protesters is simply stay away from the city’s hospitals.
"March down Cambie Street, go across the bridge, honk your horns, tell us all about your anti-vax nonsense and then just go home," he said. "@kennedystewart is my Twitter tag, send me something, say how mad you are but leave the hospitals alone."
As for VGH itself, Vancouver Coastal Health addressed the possibility of another protest during a recent statement to Vancouver Is Awesome.
“While we recognize the right for people to lawfully and peacefully protest, we are asking people to avoid gathering at VGH or any acute care facility to protest,” the statement reads. “These actions can be disruptive to both staff and the public seeking care.”
“Vaccines remain a critical tool in stopping the transmission of COVID-19 and keeping ourselves, our loved ones, and communities safe.”