Demonstrators took to the streets of Sooke for the second week in a row Wednesday afternoon to voice their opposition to pandemic-related mandates.
Starting from Maple Avenue South and heading up Highway 14 to the Evergreen Centre, around 25 demonstrators waved flags and signs while cheering and blasting freedom-themed music from the sidewalk. Every now and then, a passing motorist would honk their horn and wave.
“We have vaccinated people here who have had bad experiences, we have people who are against vaccination completely and we have people who have gotten both vaccinations and the booster, but are now questioning the mandates,” said organizer Jewel Black. “With the truckers convoy that has taken Ottawa, it has inspired a lot of Canadians and it has renewed our hope and our faith, so we now feel comfortable raising our voices in unity.”
Black said the demonstration was specifically a response to the Sooke School District (SD62) announcement on Monday (Jan. 31) that all staff will be required to provide proof of vaccination, or be tested for COVID-19 weekly, as of March 7.
Testing in lieu of vaccination, Black said, “is inexcusable for any employer in Canada, as it is asking for us to reveal any medical information about ourselves. We do not have to share our medical information … this will go on and on and on until the point where we have no privacy left.”
Speaking on Monday, SD62 board chair Ravi Parmar said the new mandate comes as a result of the recent surge in Omicron cases. After the board and district listened to and consulted with many stakeholders, he said, “we believe to our core that proceeding with a proof of vaccination procedure for all employees is the right decision at this time,” he said.
Black intends to follow the lead of the “Freedom Convoy” in Ottawa when planning local demonstrations, and will continue organizing events in Sooke until all mandates are removed.