The city is sending a letter to Premier Doug Ford, asking the province to enact “safe zones” around hospitals to prevent anti-vaccination protesters from further harassing and intimidating staff and patients.
Cambridge Coun. Donna Reid’s motion, brought forward during Tuesday’s special meeting of council, received near unanimous approval from her colleagues around the horseshoe, with Coun. Nicholas Ermetta the only one to vote against it.
Ermetta said he was torn on the motion, wanting instead to ensure protesters can exercise their rights by protesting in a designated area near the hospital.
Reid said the protests she’s seen in other cities have been “debilitating and horrible for our health care workers” and patients who, in some cases, have been forced to “shoulder their way past these protesters who are putting them down for what they see as vaccine support."
Reid says she views it as harassment and thinks the City of Cambridge needs to do everything it can to condemn it.
“We do not want that happening in our Ontario, we don’t want that happening in our cities,” she said, adding she supports protests, but not harassment.
“These are people we depend on for saving our lives,” added Coun. Mike Mann. “Our essential workers need a safe place where they can go to work. We need to make sure we do everything we can to make sure they have that safe place.”
Coun. Mike Devine said he respects the right to protest but doesn’t believe hospitals are the place to do it.
“We have people in hospitals who have literally worked themselves to the bone during the pandemic,” he said.
Coun. Scott Hamilton echoed the concerns of his colleagues on council.
“Hospitals are places of care, they’re places of healing, not places of protest,” he said.
The harshest condemnation came from Mayor Kathryn McGarry who says she feels “a sense of absolute outrage” at the protests she’s seen, calling it not only devastating for healthcare workers but “incredibly callous for the patients.”
McGarry said she’s heard of family members coming into hospitals to provide care, or having just found out devastating news, and have to make their way through a gauntlet of protesters “who were shouting, breathing and spitting on them”
“I’m totally disgusted with these protesters,” she said.
“Leave our hospitals alone and allow them to do the incredible work they do day in and day out.”
Council has asked the correspondence be forwarded to Premier Doug Ford, Minister of Health Christine Elliot, the Association of Ontario Municipalities and the municipalities of the Region of Waterloo.