Cathy Jones says COVID-19 views didn't cause discord in her final '22 Minutes' season

TORONTO — Former "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" cast member Cathy Jones says her controversial criticisms of COVID-19 measures didn't hamper her relationships on set in her final season of the CBC series.

Jones tells The Canadian Press she plans to pursue other creative ambitions after wrapping her nearly three-decade-long run on the satirical news show.

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Jones announced on Instagram in March that she won't return to the Halifax-shot "22 Minutes" after starring in every season since the show's launch in 1993.

CBC's Sally Catto says in a statement that "while we are sad Cathy is leaving the show, we fully respect her decision."

The 66-year-old Jones denies rumours that her vocal opposition to COVID-19 lockdowns, masks and vaccination contributed to her departure, which was first reported by Halifax weekly the Coast last month.

Jones admits that her views are a "little different than most people," but says that didn't cause discord during production.

"Everybody at '22 Minutes' are really old friends," Jones said by phone from Halifax on Monday.

"Everybody is full of grace and kindness, and really doing their best. Nobody is having an easy time with these protocols."

Jones said she counts herself as "retired" from the venerable series, on which she performed the roles of news anchor, correspondent and various sketch characters.

After "28 wonderful years" on the show, Jones said she felt it was time to move on.

"I should have walked out of there like 10 years ago, 20 years ago... I think I would have done a lot of interesting creative projects if I hadn't had that kind of safe place to land," Jones said.

"But I really do appreciate that it was there. It meant a lot to me to have a show for that long and for those people to be always so welcoming."

"I have to have a life separate from '22 Minutes,' and I'm really happy to not be going back this time," she continued.

Jones has recently garnered scrutiny on social media for promoting conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccination and mask-wearing, including attending a protest against pandemic protocols in Halifax last weekend.

The comedian and writer said she believes "people's health should be really in their own hands and not in the hands of the government," adding that the pandemic is sowing division and inhibiting the free flow of public discourse.

Science overwhelmingly indicates that COVID-19 vaccines are both safe and effective, and public health experts say wearing masks can help prevent the spread of the virus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 26, 2021.

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