'Not acceptable': Island Health CEO says protesters abused, assaulted health-care workers

Island Health's chief executive says the anti-vaccine protests around Vancouver Island on Wednesday led to verbal abuse of health-care workers and at least one assault.

"I am proud my country supports the democratic right to peaceful protest," said Island Health president and CEO Kathy MacNeil in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

"However, some of today’s protests disrupted safe access to health-care facilities."

MacNeil said health-care workers were verbally abused on their way to and from work, adding that there had been "at least one case" of physical assault.

"What happened to our health-care teams today is not acceptable to me nor to the people and communities they serve," MacNeil said. "Our health-care teams deserve respect and support, no matter what personal beliefs we hold."

Hundreds of people gathered outside the B.C. legislature building in Victoria to protest the provincial government's plan to require proof of vaccination for certain non-essential activities, calling it coercive and tyrannical.

Other protests were held in cities around B.C., with an estimated 2,000 people joining a rally outside Vancouver General Hospital on the mainland. 

In Nanaimo, protesters lined the streets outside Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. A nurse who works there said on Twitter that she had been harassed by the crowd while leaving work. 

The B.C. government is expected to announce more details about its planned vaccine card system soon.

One dose of a COVID-19 vaccine will be required to enter restaurants, gyms and movie theatres - among other non-essential venues - as of Sept. 13.

By Oct. 24, those seeking entry to such locations will need to be fully vaccinated.

With files from CTV News Vancouver Island's Scott Cunningham