Fire chief rips firefighters for 'disrespectful, disgraceful' behavior at anti-vaccination rally

Calgary fire chief Steve Dongworth had harsh words for a few members of his team Friday after a number of firefighters and police officers participated in an anti-vaccination rally at city hall earlier this week.

That's when officers and firefighters stood arm-in-arm to protest COVID-19 vaccinations that have been mandated for all city employees.

"Disappointed, very disappointed," Dongworth said, of his response to the rally.

It wasn't just the purpose of the rally that upset Dongworth but rather the fact that some of the protestors went up and put their hands on the Fallen Firefighters Memorial that stands outside city hall.

"(The fact that) this small group of people, in the process of advancing their agenda, would exploit that memorial in that way was completely disrespectful and a disgrace."

The Firefighters Association said it's concerned that some anti-mask and anti-vaccination groups are using the support of the firefighters and other first responders to push their agendas, adding that in fact, 85 per cent of its members are vaccinated.

We are concerned that groups, such as Calgary Freedom Central, who have been actively protesting public health measures, have been referencing the support of firefighters and other first responders. 1/3

— Calgary Firefighters Association (@CGYFireFighters) September 10, 2021

"It would be unconscionable if we end up infecting one of those patients that we're working with or someone we come across in the course of our work," Dongworth said.

The City of Calgary announced all employees must get vaccinated by Nov. 1, unless there's a medical or other reason, or else face consequences.

Calgary's police chief issued a statement as well, part of which said, "We need to listen and work with our members and the relevant unions prior to making a decision on mandatory vaccinations or testing/screening of Calgary Police Service members."

In response to the first rally, Dongworth ordered barricades be erected around the Fallen Firefighter memorial in anticipation of another anti-vaccination rally Sunday.

He said he's had to request barricades before, but never thought he would have to protect the memorial from some of his own members.

(The Fallen Firefighter Memorial with barricades up, Sept. 10, 2021. Photo credit: Camilla di Giusseppe)

With files from Camilla di Giuseppe, CTV Calgary