TORONTO — In a public statement on Friday Nov, 18, 2020, Premier Doug Ford announced that Toronto and Peel region would enter a 28–day full lockdown, effective that following Monday. Some of the restrictions included in the full lockdown measures include:
- Closure of non-essential businesses including gyms, fitness centers, bars and restaurants
- A maximum of 10 people gathered in doors for households
- People who live alone can have a maximum of one household or one person for frequent contact
Following Ford’s announcement, members of Toronto’s anti-lockdown movement such as The Line Canada, Hugs over Masks, and We Are All Essential took to the streets with hundreds of supporters to protest.
Toronto has been in varying stages of lockdown for the past eight months. During this period, those advocating an end to the lockdown have argued that the economic, psychological and sociological implications outweigh the severity of COVID-19. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus has a mortality rate of 3.4%.
The atmosphere was festive and event well-supported but it is clear that there were fewer present than usual. Perhaps some of the usual supporters were unsure and fearful of the Grey Zone lockdown measures and decided to sit this gathering out.
“We are all essential:” concerns raised about human sovereignty
The gathering speeches opened at Yonge–Dundas square, where the masses congregated anxiously. Many waved placards with various messages, such as “We are all essential.”
Vanessa, one of the speakers, took to the stage and relayed her own experience of rejecting work at Queen’s Park. She said some of her co-workers were “selling their souls” for the fallacy of the Canadian dream.
“We are fighting dark forces,” she said through the speakers, speculating about esoteric reasons the lockdown was enforced.
“They are dividing us between the ones who are masked and unmasked,” Vanessa said to the crowd. “But now I see it as the ones who are free versus the ones who want to be free. Deep down in their inner beings, they all want to be free.”
“We are fighting dark forces.” Vanessa, a protester addresses crowd.
Vanessa’s statement was met with cheers. She then shared words about uniting forces to remain positive and powerful.
“We have the power within to ignite every heart in Ontario, in Canada and beyond.”
Zoe of The Line Canada is present at every protest, speaking to the crowd about her concerns of societal mental health
Youth activists like Zoe from The Line Canada have been prevalent at the weekly anti-lockdown gatherings.
“I’m quite angry at him,” she said about the Premier. “We know that the test results are less than 1% and fake. Small businesses are going to be destroyed. There have been more deaths from suicide than there has been from COVID.”
According to the National Institute of Health, projected suicide rates per 100,000 increased to 14.0 in 2020 and 13.6 in 2021, resulting in 2114 excess suicides in 2020-2021. These results indicate that suicide prevention in the context of COVID-19-related unemployment is a critical priority.
When asked what positive message she had for people continuing to live their lives, Zoe encouraged people to go outside and look at the other side of mask mandates.
State recommendations for virtual festivities condemned
A prominent figure of anti-lockdown rallies, Vladislav Sobolev of Hugs Over Masks and We Are All Essential riled up the audience by flipping the script of the stereotypical angry protest and encouraging supporters to celebrate the full lockdown.
“Happy second lockdown everybody,” Sobolev said to the assembly of picketers. “We have to say happy second lockdown […] because this is what the government allows us to have.”
The provincial government advised that citizens to migrate social interactions such as birthdays and parties to the virtual realm, an idea that Sobolev vehemently rejected in his speech.
“Let me ask a question to Doug Ford and Mayor Tory: did our grandfathers and grandmothers fight virtually for our freedom?”
On Wed, Nov. 25, at a Queen’s Park press conference, provincial Health Minister Christine Elliot reiterated that citizens should hold social gatherings online during the holidays this year.
“To connect with family, friends, and co-workers over the holidays, virtual celebrations are the safest option,” Elliot said. “Or consider exploring Ontario’s great outdoors where physical distancing can be maintained while you are hiking, building a snowman, or decorating the outside of your home with lights.”
Sobolev reflected on his own upbringing in the Soviet Union, where at eight years old he had to “stand in line with food coupons to get bread and butter.” Sobolev said his childhood was marked with governmental austerity and inadequate resources—a situation that he equated to the present state of affairs in Canada.
“The government created a deficit on purpose,” he said. “How many times do we have to say enough is enough?”
To illustrate his point, Sobolev brought a woman, Krystal, onto the stage. She was recently arrested for not wearing a mask in a bookstore and was charged with trespassing.
In Sobolev’s view, run-ins with the law are a necessary evil in their fight against the lockdown. He encouraged people to not fear getting ticketed, saying they fall under by–laws and do not overwrite constitutional laws. His organization We Are All Essential facilitates businesses that want to legally navigate the lockdown measures.
Anti-lockdown activist speaks to Debbie Deer about why his organization was founded.
Sobolev cites the 24,000 Canadians who die annually due medical malpractice and warns of people putting absolute trust in the system.
“You can choose love or fear,” he said in an interview.
What’s next for Ontario, according to protesters
Christiano is a graphic artist concerned about the economic repercussions of another lockdown. He believes that the virus is a “hoax.”
We as humans beings have a right to assemble,” he said to INN24. “This is all part of being healthy mentally and physically. In my opinion this is a hoax.”“At the end of the day, we need to have our freedom. Freedom of speech, freedom to live on the planet.”
Denmark’s nine-day protest before their parliament resulted in the withdrawal of the “epidemic law”. The new legislation would replace an emergency law passed in the spring that gave the government extended powers to intervene in society in order to fight the pandemic.
Christiano said he is optimistic about Canadas ability to mobilize similar change for some of our more restrictive lockdown measures.
Towards the end of the protest, we ran into Paul Erwin, a street activist distributing resources from alleged experts providing facts about the lockdown. The main sentiment on the flyer was conjecture that some medical experts are faking the virus.
Paul, a protestor, handed out flyers with information about a so-called “plandemic”
Paul said that he had propositioned Doug Fords daughter, who he claims opposes aspects of the lockdown mandate.
The INN24 team closed its coverage of the rally with the man who started it all: organizer Laimont Daigle of The Line Canada.
“We started with 175 people at Queen’s Park,” he said. “We had no idea what was going to happen—we got to this place where we get 1500-2000 people easily on a Saturday.”
Laimont Daigle, founding organizer of Toronto’s anti-lockdown protests.
According to Daigle, charges are never followed through when citizens are threatened with tickets from the Crown. He said The Line Canada will set an unwanted precedent for cases. Daigle voices support for local fire fighters and law enforcement, shunning the movement to defund the city’s police force.
“Wake up, rise up, we’re here for the people and we aren’t going anywhere,” he said.
The first lockdown in Toronto was slated for two weeks. It is apparent that the protesting citizens are skeptical towards Ford’s proposed 28-day full lockdown, growing restless with what they see as increased ill effects of the restrictions. Common concerns raised at the protest include the economic recession, a collective mental health decline, and the compromise of individual sovereignty.
That said, this is a delicate scenario where we need to continue working with each other and the government to employ measures that sustain society in a healthy and unified way. We will continue to hope for the best as the COVID-19 lockdown situation progresses.
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