Members of the group “Hugs Over Masks” gathered in cities across Canada Sunday, including a small group in Surrey.

Those in attendance refused to speak to CTV News Vancouver, but the founder of the group who organized a rally in Kitchener, Ont., spoke to CTV News there. Vladislav Sovolad said he wants “to make sure that people actually know the real harm and effects” of wearing masks.

“There (are) no studies that have shown there are harms in wearing a mask,” said Dr. Anna Wolak, a physician in B.C. “The masks just add that extra layer of protection.”

Wolak is one of more than 80 physicians and dentists in B.C. who have penned an open letter to the province, calling for a mandatory mask mandate. 

“The Canadian Thoracic Society has come out and said there are no underlying respiratory conditions that could be worsened by wearing a mask,” Wolak told CTV News. “The asthma Canada Society has come out as well and said most people with asthma can wear a mask safely.”

Surrey city councillor Linda Annis said she finds it “absolutely discouraging” that people are gathering to protest masks. 

“What’s good for our community will ultimately be good for us,” she said.

When asked whether the municipality of Surrey would consider a mask mandate for indoor spaces, Annis said there has been nothing put forward at council, adding that councillors don’t meet again until Sept. 14.

“I do think that it’s absolutely incumbent on everyone who lives in Surrey to wear their mask,” she said.

The event was originally scheduled to take place at Douglas Park Community School. In a statement to CTV News, the school district said it was aware of an event being promoted, but added:

“We have no record of renting our school site to this group or any groups during this time. All facilities rentals in our district follow a process. The school and district are not connected to the event or the group responsible for organizing it.”

The event was ultimately moved to Surrey’s Holland Park. In a statement to CTV News, Rob Costanzo, general manager of corporate services for the City of Surrey, called the rally an “unsanctioned event.” The city respects and supports freedom of expression, he said.

“We would like to remind the rally participants that the COVID-19 health protocols have been put in place for a reason,” Costanzo said. “Health officials have deemed these measures will help prevent the spread of COVID-19. We strongly urge the rally participants to take heed of the advice to protect not only yourself, but your family and your community.

This comes just three days after TransLink announced that, as of Aug. 24, face coverings will be mandatory on all buses and skytrain vehicles. 

Wolak is pleased with that development, but says she wants to see more places take this on, especially the provincial government. 

“Currently, in B.C., the cases per day, per capita, outnumber Ontario per capita,” she said. “It’s like, ‘Well, how high do you want the transmission rates to be?’”

Other than children under the age of two, she added, there are very few people who would fall into a category of being exempt from wearing masks. 

“It should be between the person and their doctor,” said Wolak. “If mask-wearing was so dangerous, physicians wouldn’t be using it in the operating room to be operating on people and very few people would survive medical school.”