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Local union says Anti-vax protestors don't speak for Alberta frontline workers

Statement from AFL president Gil McGowan decries recent anti-vax protests at Alberta hospitals
More anti-vax protests planned today at hospitals around the country. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

Politicians and union groups are speaking out against weekend anti-vax demonstrations outside hospitals across Canada. More protests went ahead Monday, including outside hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary.

In a statement, Premier Jason Kenney said any protests must not obstruct hospital operations, including the arrival and departure of emergency vehicles and workers. "Blocking an ambulance is most definitely not peaceful protest," he said. "In Alberta, local law enforcement is empowered to enforce the law in a timely fashion."

Kenney went on to say that while Canadians are entitled to peaceful protest, "one can question the appalling judgment of protestors. It is outrageous that a small minority feel it's appropriate to protest at hospitals during the pandemic, while our health care workers continue to tirelessly battle COVID-19."

Demonstrators said they are taking a stand against what they call "tyrannical measures and government overreach," adding they are not encouraging nurses to walk out on their shifts or abandon patients.

Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (which represents 175,000 unionized Alberta nurses, paramedics, firefighters and other front-line workers), said the "small group of selfish, angry and misinformed people that purports to represent frontline health care and public safety workers DO NOT in any shape or form represent the thousands of frontline workers who've been working hard over the past 19 months to keep Albertans safe during the pandemic."

“Our unions and members are firmly in support of masking and vaccination as key tools to eliminate the spread of COVID. We support the right of all Canadians to protest, but we are horrified that these people would choose to protest outside hospitals, where health care workers are struggling physically and psychologically to cope with a fourth wave that is threatening to overwhelm our health care system," McGowan said.

“We are also angry about the anguish that these protests will add to the emotional distress already being felt by patients and families in hospital, many of whom are already experiencing some of the most difficult days of their lives. If these people want to protest government decisions, they should protest where the government makes those decisions, at the Legislature, not at hospitals."

An organization calling itself Canadian Frontline Nurses posted notices of "silent vigils" expected to take place in all 10 provinces Monday, saying they're meant to critique public-health measures put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.