Submitted by Joel Harden, MPP for Ottawa Centre
On Sept. 13, I arrived at the Civic Hospital. Anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers were holding a protest there as part of a nation-wide day of action. I worried that protesters intended to block or disrupt the hospital—as has happened elsewhere.
One of the protesters came over to say hello. It was someone our MPP office has been helping, a constituent who lives with daily pain and whose life has fallen apart.
My heart sank. Standing next to me was someone our society has left behind. I was shown videos of their involvement in anti-mask, anti-vaccine protests. The constituent remarked on the speeches they had given to massive crowds and the support they had received.
As the constituent shared anti-vaccine and anti-mask arguments, I wasn’t filled with anger. I felt a deep sadness and awareness of the challenge before us under COVID-19: how do we talk to those who are persuaded by disinformation campaigns?
I told the constituent that we were not aligned on these issues. I urged them to be safe and mindful of the safety of others. And I won’t stop fighting for justice in their disability claim.
I support COVID-19 vaccine mandates, and I support COVID-19 vaccine certificates. Ontario must introduce these measures, and that will mean consequences for those who refuse to get vaccinated. Protests are likely to continue, and we must keep everyone safe.
That’s why we are calling for hospital safety zones to protect patients and staff. We have asked Premier Ford to reconvene the legislature right away to help make it happen.
But as we do that, let’s resist the urge to belittle others, addressing disinformation campaigns with persuasive arguments. Let’s build that bridge so others may cross.