Hundreds protest outside LHSC over vaccine mandates, COVID-19 restrictions

About 200 people gathered outside the London Health Sciences Centre's (LHSC) Victoria campus as part of what was being dubbed the 'Health Freedom Movement.'

The protests, which were held at multiple hospitals across Canada, were organized by a group called Canadian Frontline Nurses, which is against COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine certificates, among other issues.

Kristen Nagle, a nurse who was terminated by LHSC, heads the group, and says their anti-vaccine claims need to be heard.

"We don’t think that there’s evidence at all or any science to support these measures measures in place...We just want an actual debate and actual conversation to have our voices heard and to actually get back to our rights and freedoms as Canadians."

Also on hand was controversial Pastor Henry Hildebrandt of the Church of God Restoration in Aylmer, Ont. He is facing a number of charges over gatherings that violated the Reopening Ontario Act.

He says, "We have a God-given freedom to make a choice for our own bodies and this is wrong not only in Canada, it is wrong world-wide."

During a virtual media briefing just before Monday's rally, London Mayor Ed Holder said he "condemns in the strongest possible terms" the protests.

"Our health care heroes are stressed enough already, which is to say nothing of the innocent, vulnerable patients who are just seeking comfort and treatment...I say to those mindless mobs, how dare you. Leave our health professionals alone because harassing them accomplishes nothing."

While Holder said police would be in attendance, there were none visible, and protesters were not blocking driveways or entrances.

"The ultimate irony is when members of this ignorant mob inevitably become sick with COVID in the coming days or weeks or months, it's the people that are harassing the doctors, the nurses, the hospital staff -- the same people who will treat them with kindness and compassion and professionalism."

Earlier Monday, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott took to Twitter to condemn the protests planned at numerous hospitals across the country.

“Extremely disappointed to see out hospitals & staff being the target of protests after all of their sacrifice during the pandemic,” wrote Elliott.

Extremely disappointed to see our hospitals & staff being the target of protests after all of their sacrifice during the pandemic.

Peaceful protest is a right, but patients & our health care heroes do not deserve to be intimidated or obstructed from accessing or delivering care.

— Christine Elliott (@celliottability) September 12, 2021

In addition to LHSC, protests were expected at four other hospitals across Ontario, including in Toronto, Ottawa, Sudbury and Barrie as well as more across the country.

Premier Doug Ford has also spoken out about protests planned outside of hospitals.

- With files from CTV News London's Nick Paparella and The Canadian Press