About 150 people gathered on the legislature lawn to protest B.C.’s vaccine card on Monday, the first day British Columbians were required to show proof of vaccination to access some non-essential businesses and services, such as restaurants, gyms and indoor concerts.
A man was arrested for assault after a person was doused with a hot liquid at the protest, Victoria police said. The victim had non-life threatening injuries and declined medical treatment.
Proof of vaccination is not required for services such as grocery stores, pharmacies, fast-food restaurants, public transportation and public libraries.
Dozens of people ranging from young children to seniors lined Belleville Street holding signs protesting the vaccine card, vaccines in general, masks and the media. Their messages — such as “Coercion is not consent,” “My body, my choice,” and “I support bodily autonomy” — were met with honks and cheers of support from some passing motorists, as well as disapproving head shakes from others.
Some held signs promoting ivermectin, a medicine used to treat parasitic worms and unproven as a treatment for COVID-19.
Dot Murray, who is vaccinated, and long-time friend Nicolette Czop, who is unvaccinated, stood next to each other holding signs that declared: “Together we stand for choice.”
Murray said while she’s “pro-vaccine,” she believes it’s important for everyone to choose whether to get the shot without any government pressure.
She said there could be people who can’t get vaccinated because their guardians or abusive partners won’t allow it, or who have had painful experiences with health care in the past and no longer trust the system. “I don’t want to jump on assuming that somebody who’s not getting the vaccine doesn’t have a good reason.”
Murray said she doesn’t plan on going anywhere that requires her to show a vaccine card, because she feels it’s an invasion of privacy. “[Being] required to share your personal health information in order to be served, that doesn’t feel very fair to me, and especially in light of the fact that so many people will be denied service based on that,” she said.
Czop said she struggled with her decision not to get vaccinated, because she knew people would criticize her, but ultimately felt the vaccine wouldn’t protect her. She said she has had negative experiences with the medical system and now chooses to protect her body in “natural ways.”
“I am absolutely pro-bodily autonomy and making personal choices and keeping those choices for myself,” she said.
A smaller protest of about 20 people took place Monday morning outside Victoria City Hall, across from CTV News and CFAX. The group migrated to Blanshard Street near CHEK News and CBC offices carrying “fake news” signs.