A small group of protesters opposed to vaccine mandates gathered outside the B.C. legislature as Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin read the speech from the throne inside on Tuesday afternoon.
As Austin laid out the B.C. government’s post-pandemic plans, about two dozen protesters who converged on the sidewalk of Belleville Street in front of the legislature said they planned to keep voicing their displeasure with all levels of government, which they say aren't listening to their concerns.
Dr. Anna Kindy, a general practitioner who practises in Campbell River, joined the protesters, saying she supports “informed consent” for her patients. The doctrine advocates allowing individuals to make their own choices in their medical care after a health-care provider has educated them on the risks and benefits.
“I am not an anti-vaxxer — I have had my shots. I just feel that people should be able to decide if they want to be vaccinated after they’re given the information,” said Kindy, who was visiting Victoria and decided to join the protest. “People should be able to determine their own risk/benefit ratio. These [vaccine] mandates do nothing but separate people.”
Kindy, an addiction-medicine specialist, said while she does not know of any COVID-19 deaths among her patients, she has seen a number of deaths due to overdoses and people whose mental health is suffering.
She reports that her husband, a cosmetic surgeon, has had surgeries to treat skin cancers delayed because of the overwhelming focus on COVID-19.
The protesters were observed by an almost equal number of Victoria police officers in bright reflective vests. The police used their vehicles to block Government Street between Belleville and Superior to ensure the lieutenant governor could access the legislature unimpeded.
Officers were also deployed around the building, with the immediate area around the main entrance roped off and guarded. An officer was stationed at the corner of Government and Belleville streets observing traffic.
Because vehicles cannot stop in that section of Belleville Street, supporters in vehicles circled the block, waving, revving their engines and occasionally sounding their horns.
The officer stationed at the street corner said he was there to take videos of drivers who break the law. Victoria police report that apart from issuing a few tickets for excessive honking and other driving infractions under the Motor Vehicle Act, they encountered no major issues during the protest.
Brad Shiell, 43, said he joined the protest “to get my voice heard.” He said he has two medical exemptions from wearing a mask — one because of his teeth and another because he suffers from anxiety. His wife, Alexis, 39, is exempt from getting a COVID-19 vaccine because of a rare neurological condition.
“But people don’t seem to care. Because we don’t wear a mask, we can’t go out for dinner. We can’t travel and our three children are missing out on all their school’s extracurricular activities,” said Shiell.