Nurses' union in N.S. condemns 'anti-science' protest planned at Halifax hospital

WATCH: Health-care workers in Nova Scotia are condemning a protest held in front of the QEII Monday afternoon. Across the country, similar protests were held, aimed at fighting for medical freedoms. The protest comes as provinces across the country, including Nova Scotia, have announced plans to start requiring proof of vaccination for non-essential activities. Alicia Draus reports.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article said one of the participants of Canadian Frontline Nurses was fired for attending lockdown rallies. While the nurse’s employer said she was “terminated with cause,” they did not specify the reason why she was fired.

The Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union says it does not endorse the actions of an organization calling itself “Canadian Frontline Nurses,” which has a number of protests planned at hospitals across the country on Monday to oppose COVID-19 measures and vaccine mandates.

One of them is at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax. The aim of the event is to “stand together again for informed consent and medical freedom,” according to a Facebook page created for the event.

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In a statement posted to the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union Facebook page, the union said it was not part of this group and does not endorse their views.

“This group has drawn in anti-science, anti-mask, anti-vaccine and anti-public health followers whose beliefs align with theirs,” it said.

“Throughout the pandemic, NSNU has stood on the side of science. We have advocated for evidence-based public health measures to stem the spread of COVID-19, such as social distancing, masking and vaccination.”

The NSNU statement stressed that it does not want Monday’s protests to be confused with the Day of Action planned by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions and other nursing unions across the country on Sept. 17 to raise awareness for the nursing crisis ahead of the federal election.

In recent weeks, “Canadian Frontline Nurses” — whose participants include an Ontario nurse who previously attended anti-lockdown rallies in the U.S. and a B.C. doctor who claimed in October 2020 that there would be no second wave and that COVID-19 was no worse than a seasonal flu — has helped organize and promote anti-vax rallies at hospitals in Canada where health-care workers were harassed and people seeking treatment were caused further stress.

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The event in Halifax Monday aims to be a “peaceful and silent demonstration of support for health care workers and all others who are speaking up or walking out facing ultimatums as consequences to their personal health choices,” the event page said.

Protests are also planned at the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre, the Toronto General Hospital, Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital and the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary.

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The NSNU statement said while it’s “unfortunate” that the group is taking attention away from Canada’s vaccination efforts, “the vast majority of nurses know the devastating effects of COVID-19 and understand that the only way out of this pandemic is through social distancing, masking, good hand hygiene, vaccination and following science-based public health directives.”

‘Disappointing and disheartening’

In a statement, Nova Scotia Health said it was aware of the planned protest and said there will be added security for the safety of patients, staff, physicians and volunteers.

“It is disappointing and disheartening to know this may happen, given the hard work of health care workers over the last year and a half,” it said.

“Protesting at hospitals will further contribute to the stress and fatigue of our teams and we respectfully ask that protestors reconsider or choose a more appropriate location.”

It said they expect anyone attending the protest to allow patients and families to access care, and allow staff and physicians to get to work.

In an email, Halifax Regional Police spokesperson John MacLeod said police are “aware of the situation and we respect the public’s right to peacefully protest.”

“We expect that they will respect the rights of others who need to use those facilities,” he said. “We don’t comment on our operational deployments but I can tell you that we will be monitoring the protest to ensure everyone’s safety.”

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