Hundreds attended a rally at Calgary’s Olympic Plaza on Sunday afternoon, protesting mandatory vaccination policies.
Earlier this month, the City of Calgary announced that workers must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 1.
Alberta Health Services is also requiring all of its employees and contracted health-care providers to be fully immunized.
Lindsay Perry went to the rally to support her sister, who is a nurse and has chosen not to be vaccinated.
“She is facing being disciplined, laid off possibly or put on unpaid leave for her choice to do what she feels is right for her body,” Perry said.
Another rally opposing mandatory vaccination was held on Tuesday at city hall. In anticipation of Sunday’s rally, Calgary’s fire chief said he had requested that the firefighters memorial at city hall be cordoned off from the protest.
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“This, to me, is one of the greatest insults that anybody could make towards police officers or firefighters who have given their lives to defend their country or their cities. This is wrong,” said retired RCMP officer Clay Farnsworth.
He was at the rally speaking on behalf of Police on Guard for Thee, a group of retired and active duty peace officers looking to see an end to what they call unconstitutional public health orders.
“I can’t fathom being a policeman in uniform today or a first responder for that matter. Everyone has the right to their body autonomy,” Farnsworth said.
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The City of Calgary said employees who can’t get the vaccine for medical reasons or due to an exemption under protected grounds will be accommodated. But those who refuse to get the shots without a valid reason could face discipline, including dismissal.
On social media, the Calgary Firefighters Association said it is concerned about groups who have been actively protesting public health measures that have been referencing the support of firefighters and other first responders.
The CFA said vaccinations are a vital part of keeping the public safe, noting that 85 per cent of members are vaccinated.
“The whole issue comes down to freedom of choice and conscientious objection, and we should still have that right regardless of who you work for,” said retired Calgary firefighter Allan Vandersteen, who was at the rally on Sunday.
“You have divisions now, and this can’t get any worse. I think people should stand down and be reasonable and respect each other’s opinion.”
Coun. Shane Keating points to recent Alberta numbers that show 92 per cent of ICU patients were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
“The last thing you need is a front-line worker who is unvaccinated coming to your aid,” Keating said.
“This whole aspect of freedom is so overblown in my view. It overshadows the good that would be done if you were to get your vaccinations.”
As of Monday, Sept. 13, city employees will be required to disclose and provide proof of their vaccination status or grounds for exemption. Unvaccinated staff members without an exemption require their first dose by this date.
Roughly 400 people gathered for the Frontline for Freedom rally in Edmonton on Sunday.
The event was at least partly comprised of first responders and health-care workers, also calling for freedom of choice when it comes to masking and vaccinations.
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