'Freedom Rally' in Aylmer, Ont. causes concerns for public health officials
LONDON, ONT. -- Officials are concerned after hundreds of people - not wearing masks - turned out for a weekend rally in Aylmer, Ont. over COVID-19 restrictions.
“I’ve had several emails, calls, messages, and they are all messages of outrage,” says Aylmer Mayor Mary French.
French is dealing with the fallout of a rally that took place Saturday in downtown Aylmer. The 'Freedom Rally,' as it was called, caught city staff off guard.
“We weren’t apprised of this event at all, until late Friday. And when I say we were notified, it was through the rumour mill. So we really didn’t know this event is going to take place,” says French.
An estimated 300 people met at the bandshell in Aylmer, in one of many similar rallies that have taken place across the province over the last week.
Large public gatherings calling on the government to stop infringing on their rights were also held in Windsor and Toronto.
Pastor Henry Hildebrandt of Aylmer’s The Church of God, was not at the local rally, but did participate in one last week in Toronto and says fears of the government mandating vaccines is just one part of the rallying call.
“It should be every person's, every adult's choice, whether or not what gets injected into their body, or when they want to do it, or how they want to do it,” says Hildebrandt.
Although organizers say this is not an ‘anti-mask rally,’ with a much more encompassing message about infringement of rights by the government during the pandemic, Southwestern Public Health issued a statement Monday in response to the rally.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joyce lock said in a statement to CTV News, “Asking questions is good, civic action plays an important part in Canadian political discourse. However participating in a large group activity, unmasked, as cases are rising everywhere is dangerous.”
“Because of the fact that many people were in close contact with each other, and didn’t follow any of the health unit protocols, and I know that’s why they were protesting, so obviously they’re not going to follow those protocols, but that really puts our whole community at risk.”
French says there will be meetings this week to understand why the protest took place, and then wait to see if this event creates a spike in cases.