'Say your piece and go home,' Vancouver mayor says of demonstration against B.C. vaccine passport
Police officers were on scene for two separate protest in Vancouver on Wednesday, one about climate-related issues and the other about the provincial vaccine passport system.
The first event, called "Canada Is Still On Fire: Day of Action," began at around 11:30 a.m. at Hamilton and West Georgia streets.
A description for the event said it was prompted by studies suggesting "the climate emergency is getting worse faster than predicted."
It notes a particularly bad wildfire season as well as drought and flooding as evidence of the crisis, which organizers hope to make a top election issue ahead of the Sept. 20 vote.
About 90 minutes after the first protest was scheduled to start, others gathered near Vancouver's city hall showing their opposition to the new vaccine passport system.
They blocked Cambie Street in both directions between West 12th Avenue and Broadway, holding signs with messages including "Dictatorship or democracy?"
Under the passport system, which launches on Sept. 13, proof of vaccination by way of a digital or printed out vaccine card must be shown in order to access businesses including gyms, restaurants and movie theatres.
The last protest against vaccine passports, which was held last week and attended by thousands, began outside the Vancouver General Hospital, and prompted a wave of frustration from health-care professionals and the public.
While the local health authority said access to the hospital and patient services were not impacted, a number of patients said on social media or told CTV News they were delayed getting to appointments.
At that event, organizers welcomed unmasked and unvaccinated attendees.
The Vancouver Police Department told CTV News it is aware of both events, and that officers would be in attendance.
Drone video from Wednesday's event suggested it drew a much smaller crowd than last week's, though an official estimate has not yet been provided.
Speaking to media at a news conference before the protest started, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said he was told by the city's police chief that the previous event was expected to be much smaller than it was.
This week, there were more police officers dedicated to the demonstration.
"Folks should be able to speak their minds, that's what democracy is all about," Stewart said, despite a comment made after the Sept. 1 protest suggesting those in attendance should "just stay the hell home."
"Really, what ticked me off last week was impeding access to health-care facilities, not just the level of stress for the folks that were in need of urgent medical care but also all the workers that were doing so much through COVID. So again, say your piece and go home. And I don't agree with you, but it's your right to do that."
He said in his opinion, protesters should "just get on board – it's been tough enough."
Stewart said his message to those attending these events is that the health-care system and front-line workers are already fatigued, and that instead of pushing back, they should help in the fight against the disease.