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Coronavirus
South Slave

Thebacha Liberty Committee holds ‘freedom rally’ in Fort Smith


Dozens of residents marched through Fort Smith on Saturday to protest Covid-19 restrictions, carrying signs reading “free to say no” and “true north strong and free.” 

The “freedom rally” was organized by the Thebacha Liberty Committee and one of several events held across Canada, including one in Yellowknife, to protest public health measures during the pandemic. One resident said around 50 people joined the Fort Smith march.

According to a press release, the Thebacha Liberty Committee was formed to encourage the Town of Fort Smith to reduce capacity limits at municipal facilities rather than require proof of vaccination. At a council meeting in November, members of the committee argued vaccine requirements result in “undue discrimination” against people who are not vaccinated against Covid-19.

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Fort Smith’s mayor and council unanimously passed a motion endorsing continued proof of vaccination saying they were obligated to serve the whole community and follow public health guidance.

Residents hold signs protesting Covid-19 restrictions. Photo submitted by Anna Kikoak

There have since been concerns about enforcement of that policy after it was discovered two unvaccinated individuals attended an event at the town’s recreation centre earlier this month.

The NWT Human Rights Commission issued a statement on mandatory vaccines in October, saying a person who chooses not to get vaccinated for personal reasons is not protected under the territory’s Human Rights Act. 

As of January 21, 77 per cent of all Fort Smith residents have been at least partially vaccinated against Covid-19 and 70 percent fully vaccinated. 

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There are currently 42 active cases of Covid-19 in the Fort Smith region. The territory’s chief public health officer recently said there have been “significant increases” in cases and community transmission in both Fort Smith and Inuvik.

Representatives for the Thebacha Liberty Committee declined an interview with Cabin Radio. 

Residents march through Fort Smith to protest public health restrictions. Photo submitted by Thrasher Guyuk

A territory-wide public health order in October allowed non-essential businesses and organizations to increase capacity limits if they chose to require proof of vaccination for entry. 

The Town of Hay River and City of Yellowknife have also opted to require proof of vaccination to increase capacity limits at municipal facilities.

Under current public health orders in the NWT, high-risk indoor activities including dancing, singing, hand games and contact sports are suspended. Bars and lounges are limited to six people per table with no mingling. Household gatherings are limited to five guests up to a maximum of 10 people in the home at a time.

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