"This is an issue of our freedoms," said Bruce Pedersen.
This afternoon, around 100 people gathered in downtown Whitehorse on Elliott Street to protest the government’s vaccine mandate that was announced one week ago today. The policy will require all government employees to get their COVID-19 shots by November 30. It will also require people using non essential services like bars and restaurants to show proof of vaccination.
Bruce Pedersen was the spokesperson for the gathering. He says people should be able to decide to get the shots or not.
“This isn’t an issue of whether you believe in vaccinations or not, this is an issue of our freedoms,” said Pedersen.
He went on to say that this is just the “tip of the iceberg” and that freedom in Canada is being slowly “eroded.”
Premier Sandy Silver told CHONFM this morning that the mandate is all about keeping the population safe.
“Everyone has the right to get vaccinated or not to get vaccinated, that’s your choice. But those choices come with ramifications. People talk about civil liberties. This is about civil liberties. The society we are in is mostly vaccinated and there are some that are refusing to get vaccinated and as a society, we as a government have to look at what keeps us safe,” said Silver.
On Elliott Street, Jonas J. Smith was in attendance. He says the policy will affect government employee’s ability to make a living.
“I think it’s important to demonstrate to the Yukon government the number of people that are affected by this mandate, and it’s not just those who have chosen not to get vaccinated for a variety of reasons, it’s also their friends and families who are vaccinated, who are opposed to mandatory measures that are going to limit people’s ability to provide for their families,” said Smith.
Smith spoke out against mandatory vaccines when they were just an idea, not reality. That outspokenness got him the boot from the Conservatives when he ran to be the Yukon’s member of parliament this summer. That didn’t keep him out of the race though, he ran as an independent and lost to Dr. Brendan Hanley, who was the territory’s Chief Medical Officer of Health throughout most of the pandemic.
And on the topic of politics, in the midst the crowd someone set up a table to collect signatures to register the Yukon Freedom Party. According to Elections Yukon, you need 100. CHONfm tried to see what the party was all about. When we asked what the party was, we were told “you’ll find out later,” then when we asked the person at the table if they were trying to start a political party, he replied, “no comment.”
The crowd outnumbered a very small counter rally of one, setup up on the other side of the street. The lone protester came equipped with signs to spread pro-vaccine messages. They wanted to remain anonymous due to fear of being doxed.
“I just think people are so misinformed, and with the rise of populism, it just breeds what’s across the street. So, the least I can do is be on this side of the street and try and get my point across,” she said.
Back on the anti-vax side of the street, a petition got handed around. It calls for the abolishment of the mandate and there plans for it to be tabled in the Yukon legislature.
The group will gather again tomorrow at Shipyards Park.