Silent protest in downtown Windsor
A group of first responders and front line workers stood in the middle of Dieppe Park Saturday afternoon and protested in silence for 15 minutes.
"I decided to come down to support the firefighters because they should have their own choice if they want to get vaccinated or not," said Duncan McGregor, who was one of over a thousand people who showed their support.
There is resistance to vaccine mandates, especially with new policies coming into effect next week. Staff and volunteers at Windsor Regional Hospital are mandated to have their first vaccine dose by September 22 or face a two-week unpaid leave. Without approved exemptions staff will have until October 7th to be fully vaccinated or face termination.
"If you want to get vaccinated get vaccinated. If you don't want to then your job shouldn't be lost because you're choosing body autonomy," said Anna, who preferred not to share her full name.
Joe Foley said, "You should be able to make a decision and change your decision at the same time but again. You should be able to make a decision."
Some in today's group are vaxed and others aren't. Group advocate Matt Hallewick said they are not fighting vaccine mandates, "We’re fighting simply the right to choose under the protections afforded to us in the Ontario Human Rights Code."
Hallewick feels the lack of choice is causing a division in the workplace.
"We're seeing hostility on the floors between co-workers that are vaxed and not vaxed to the point I've witnessed tears, witnessed people cleaning out their lockers saying I'm not going back, I won't go back to that floor if I go back at all."
With vaccine passports coming into effect Wednesday many understand and feel their rights are being compromised as well. Sarah and John Bezaire have kids who are going to be forced to leave their extra-curricular activities because they chose not to receive a vaccine.
"The kids aren't getting exercise. They're not being active because they have to choose between something that they don't really agree with their sports or something they are passionate about” said Sarah."
"It's either he does the vaccination or he can't compete when he turns 12 in October so he doesn't have a choice. It's not a choice anymore. It's a forced coercion thing for kids," said John.
Supporter Sharon says she feels forced into a corner, "like saying it's not about my vaccine anymore. It's now my rights and my freedom. It's changed and that's the problem."
Hallewick encourages workers to keep their eye on the long game. "We have to stand up until such a time when the law can intervene on our behalf."