Frustration with almost a year of pandemic protocols boiled over in North Bay Monday, as about a hundred people carrying placards and chanting “No more lockdown,” “Freedom over fear” marched outside the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit and North Bay City Hall.
“I feel the lockdowns are causing a lot more harm than COVID is,” Alexandra Stewart, who organized the protest, said as supporters gathered in the parking lot at the health unit and collected pre-made signs.
“I’m worried about the direction this is going in.”
Stewart, who owns Stewart’s Decorating, said she believes “more people are going to die from the lockdown than COVID-19,” citing missed medical appointments, delayed surgeries, overdoses and suicides.
“I don’t believe we are getting the whole story” from the health unit and the various levels of government, Stewart said. “I believe we should be seeing the evidence and the data from the government and health officials. They should be transparent.”
The protest was billed as for and in support of small businesses which have been directly affected by the lockdowns. This region has been in lockdown since Boxing Day, and it is to continue until at least March 8.
Stewart said she doesn’t believe the health unit in particular is responding to concerns from the public.
“I know a lot of people who have written and called, and they’ve received no response at all,” Stewart said. “People are being kept in the dark. Business is suffering. A lot of people are losing their jobs and losing their businesses.”
“I have a hard time believing what (the health unit is) doing,” Patricia Lees said. “It doesn’t make sense to me.
“I used to work at a long-term care home, and outbreaks there are not uncommon. I think there is a lot of fear being promoted, and some of the stuff they are promoting doesn’t make sense.”
She nodded as someone in the crowd used a bullhorn to ask why healthy people are being quarantined, why people are being told to wear face masks – few in the crowd were wearing masks – and why they are being told to maintain a distance between others.
“If masks work, why are we being told to stay apart?” he asked.
“There are things being thrust upon us with no input from us,” Lees said.
Theresa Russell said she was there to support small business owners she knows.
“I want them to just let small businesses reopen,” Russell said. “I want to see my friends make it through.
“People are losing their businesses. This lockdown is unnecessary. Curbside pickup just doesn’t cut it.”
“I’m here for freedom,” Yvonne Campaner said. “We have got to get our lives back. We have to stop being harassed by the health unit and the police.”
She said the worst thing is that children are “being terrorized. They’re being told they can kill someone just by breathing. That’s not right.”
The past year has been tough on Roch Rochon, owner of Nipissing Home Improvements in West Nipissing. He waved a sign as the protest marched through the streets reading West Nipissing Small Business Owner – No More Lockdowns.
“It’s been very difficult,” he said, but as his business offers some essential services, it’s not as bad as other small businesses.
“We can do some essential things, if we can get a permit for it,” he said. “But that’s very difficult.
“End the lockdown. That’s what I’m here for.”
Daniel Couchie slammed the “faulty PCR testing,” which has produced false positive results on a number of the tests conducted in the region.
“Even the inventor of the test says it’s not accurate,” Couchie said.
He also slammed the “censorship of the adverse reactions and deaths” to the MRNA vaccine.
“It’s an experimental vaccine,” Couchie said. “It’s not safe.”
Couchie is also concerned about the effect the lockdowns are having on business, saying an “economic collapse is around the corner if the lockdowns continue.
That, he says, will have a domino effect. More people, without a job because of closed businesses, will be thrown into poverty, health issues will increase and people will be more susceptible to disease.
“Our country is being destroyed,” he said.
“I have a lot of different concerns here. It’s time to stand up. The time to stand up was a long time ago.”
The health unit said the area has “a small window of opportunity to try to stop the spread of (variants of concern) in our communities. If we do not continue precautions to prevent a surge of COVID-19 Variants of Concern, more people will become ill and more people will die.”
The statement noted that in that event, “more measures may then be required such as prolonged lockdowns or school closures, which will have profound harmful effects on youth and people struggling with poor mental health, violence or addictions.
While the continued shutdown is challenging for our district, it is essential to slow the spread of COVID-19 and variants of concern.”