Frigid temperatures in Yellowknife didn’t stop dozens of people from gathering outside on Saturday to protest public health restrictions.
The crowd of people stood outside the Greenstone Building on Yellowknife’s main street carrying signs reading “play dates no mandates,” “choice not coercion,” and “spread love not fear.” Some chanted “just say no” and encouraged passing vehicles to “honk for freedom.”
Several in attendance said they were protesting what they believe amounts to “segregation” between those who are vaccinated against Covid-19 and those who aren’t. Some criticized media coverage of Covid-19 and public health restrictions.
The “rally for freedom” was one of several protests in some Canadian cities against public health measures in response to Covid-19.
Some businesses and facilities in the NWT began requiring proof of vaccination after a public health order in October gave non-essential businesses the option to do so to increase capacity limits. The territorial government began requiring its employees to provide proof of vaccination or get regularly tested for Covid-19 and wear a mask in late November.
The NWT Human Rights Commission issued a statement on mandatory vaccines in October, saying a person who chooses not to get vaccinated because of a personal choice is not protected under the territory’s Human Rights Act.
Several Yellowknife residents and the NWT’s Black Advocacy coalition condemned comparisons between vaccine mandates and racial segregation following remarks from a city councillor, who subsequently apologized.
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been 4,879 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the NWT, 72 hospitalizations and 14 deaths.
As of January 15, 72 percent of the territory’s population has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and 79 percent partially vaccinated. Second doses for children aged five to 11 began rolling out earlier this week.