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North Vancouver 'counter protest' rallies at Lions Gate Hospital in support of health-care workers

60 people showed up at North Van hospital to shout encouragement and thanks in wake of Vancouver anti-vaxxer protests last week

A group of about 60 North Shore residents rallied outside Lions Gate Hospital Wednesday evening (Sept. 8) in support of health-care workers.

The demonstrators – many of them members of Highlands United Church in North Vancouver – sang songs, shouted “thank you” as doctors and nurses arrived for their shifts, and carried signs with encouraging messages.

While some viewed the demonstration as a counter-protest to the anti-vaccination rallies that happened recently outside several hospitals, Highlands lead minister Will Sparks said it was intended more as a show of support for health-care workers.

“It’s a long haul they’re on,” said Sparks. “There’s a lot of passive encouragement of health-care workers. I think it needs to be a little more active.”

Gillian Irwin said the rally grew out of a discussion among church members about how to show support for health-care workers.

While the 7 p.m. banging of pots and pans that happened at the beginning of the pandemic has stopped, “they haven’t stopped working, day and night,” she said. “And now they’re taking abuse.

“We can’t do much, but we can do a little bit just to show we care.”

Irwin said the group contacted Lions Gate ahead of the demonstration, which happened around the 7 p.m. shift change at the hospital.

“We cheered for the staff as they left and as they came in,” said Irwin. “It was fabulous.”

Sparks said there are no plans to repeat the rally, but “I want to encourage other community members and groups to be assertive in their encouragement of health-care workers. It’s a long haul they’re on.”

Last week, a crowd of demonstrators gathered outside Vancouver General Hospital, as well as at other hospitals around B.C., to protest public health orders including the new vaccine passports required next week for many non-essential indoor activities.

Demonstrators blocked entrances to many of the Vancouver hospital’s key entrances, including those at neighbouring BC Cancer Centre.

Sparks said he’s at a loss to understand what those people hoped to accomplish.

“I understand the pandemic is not over at all and you start to get irritated,” he said, but “I honestly don’t really understand it. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Political leaders are doing their best, he said, but ordinary people also need to make their voices of support heard.

On Thursday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province is looking at “all options” to ensure the safety of patients and health-care workers.

“There is an absolute right of dissent in our country. You're allowed to express your views, but to interfere with cancer patients and heart patients and grieving families, and people who need to use the emergency room is not on,” he said. “There are places to demonstrate that are not our public hospitals.”

“Interfering with our hospitals, and yelling at health-care workers serves no purpose at all,” he said, adding, “We’re of course reviewing all our options, because our priority is to ensure that patients are kept well and are not in any way intimidated. And to ensure that our health-care workers are kept safe.”

In a statement, the B.C. Nurses’ Union described the anti-vaccination protests as “demoralizing and overwhelming” for many patients and staff.

“People do have the right to protest but they do not have the right to harass, disrespect and threaten the safety of any [nurse] or other health-care worker," said Cody Hedman, CEO of the BC Nurses’ Union.

The union added it is following up with all heath authorities to ensure better protections are provided in the future.

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