Supporters of Calgary mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston, incarcerated on charges of violating public health orders and threatening Alberta Health Services staff, cornered the family of Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro at a Canada Day event on Thursday.
The protesters, yelling “arrest Shandro,” and “lock Shandro up,” followed the minister, his two sons and his wife, as they tried to enter the event in Calgary.
“You’ve destroyed thousands and thousands of Alberta lives,” said one protester.
The abuse was directed at Shandro’s sons as well.
“Sorry buddy but your father is a war criminal.”
Eventually, the family was forced to lift their upset children over a chain link fence into the field where the event was taking place.
“I took Tyler’s son across the fence and brought him in here because he was crying. You don’t do that to children,” said Gary Vegelis.
“That’s a lack of respect. Tyler, whether you agree with what he does or not doesn’t matter. It’s been tough on everybody. I’ve had friends who died during COVID and we’re going to live through this. We’re going to go on.”
Shandro and his visibly shaken wife then tried to walk away from the small group of vocal protesters before being forced back through the crowd to enter the event.
The protesters were carrying posters supporting Johnston.
Shandro spoke briefly to reporters after the incident.
“I think it’s an unfortunate way for people to be expressing their opinions today. This is a day for happiness and celebration, a day for family so it’s an unfortunate way for them to be expressing that,” he said.
“I think obviously throughout the pandemic there’s been a lot of high emotions from folks on both sides of the political spectrum.”
Shandro spent a few moments after the event hugging his family.
“There’s some anxiety on that, for them to hear people believing some of the misinformation about vaccines is unfortunate and to hear the way that it was expressed today was unfortunate.”
The event was part celebration of Canada Day and part celebration of the province removing almost all of its public health restrictions.
Premier Jason Kenney took part in a short Canada Day parade before driving to deliver a few remarks and slap an Open for Summer sign on a banner.
“On Canada Day we should be grateful and I want to say we should be grateful to Albertans. Thanks to their diligence. Thanks to 73 per cent who have been vaccinated today. Alberta is open. Open for summer,” Kenney said.
A man and woman shouted profanities at him during his speech, putting their middle fingers in the air. The man warned two police officers not to touch him when asked to step back.
Vegelis approached the duo and told them their behaviour and language in front of children was unacceptable before being given the finger himself.
“You have the right to protest but with respect and dignity and we don’t have that,” he said. “The language they were using was inappropriate.”
Alberta’s reopening means no more caps on indoor and outdoor social gatherings, in restaurants, stores and places of worship. The entire province, with the exception of Calgary, is also lifting its mask mandate.
Johnston’s legal troubles
Johnston and his supporters have been vocal opponents of masks and health restrictions and Johnston is facing multiple charges related to violating public health orders and for harassing an Alberta Health Services employee. He is also facing a lawsuit from AHS for threatening employees in a series of online videos.
Johnston is also facing an assault charge in British Columbia and hate crime charges in Ontario.
He is currently behind bars after being denied bail on June 14 in connection with charges of causing a disturbance and breaching a court order.
The premier’s office said they do not comment publicly about security matters when asked if the day’s events would bring any changes.