The grounds of the B.C. legislature were packed with thousands of demonstrators Saturday afternoon calling for the end of pandemic-related mandates.
The event was co-organized by We Unify Canada and the Victoria BC Convoy for Freedom, according to a website for the event. One of event’s organizers, Kevin Brett, said it was intended to push for more dialogue with government around whether public health mandates are needed or effective.
“[The pandemic] is obviously a serious health matter, but it is also obvious that the mandates, the lockdowns, all of these things are doing more harm than good,” said Brett. “There is a question that they are not legal as well, so there definitely needs to be a debate about that too.”
READ MORE: Local truck convoys draw crowds across B.C.
Brett said mandates around vaccination such as vaccine passport systems and mandates that travellers or those crossing borders be fully vaccinated are “causing harm” as people are losing their jobs for not getting vaccinated.
One of the event’s main speakers was the former premier of Newfoundland and Labrador and a signatory to the 1982 Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms Brian Peckford, who argues public health mandates introduced during the pandemic are illegal under the charter.
“I’m a part of this event because the governments of Canada, all 14 of them, are violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which I helped write,” said Peckford. “What’s happening today in Canada is all the governments are breaking the constitution, taking rights and freedoms away from Canadians which they have no right to do.”
Peckford said there are provisions for governments to override the charter and constitution, but “only in a dire situation like a war or an insurrection.” He said in his view the pandemic “doesn’t meet that requirement.”
As speeches, videos and music played on the front steps of the legislature with presenters surrounded by hundreds of supporters, the rest of the grounds were nearly filled to capacity, with only a few open spaces left. Along Belleville Street immediately in front of the legislature, hundreds more lined the street cheering on as trucks and other vehicles drove back and forth, honking their horns and decorated with slogans, signs and Canadian flags.
Signs carried slogans such as “freedom now,” “mandates violate human rights” and “say no to [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau.” Throughout the afternoon, traffic was heavy in the downtown core, with the Victoria Police Department warning of traffic disruptions as more and more vehicles poured into the city.
“I believe in the purpose and the cause,” said Brad Morrison on why he attended the event. “I think we need a little more transparency, and I don’t like the political road we are going down. It should be more focused on our health and our mental health in particular.”
Morrison said he feels the mandates need to end immediately as they have caused too much division in society.
“We need to unite and lessen the division,” he said. “I am really sick of people blaming their neighbours for what is happening.”