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Protest opposing public health measures and mandates takes over portion of downtown Winnipeg

A group of demonstrators set up outside the Manitoba Legislative Building is using semi trucks, trailers and farm machinery to block some downtown roads in an effort to voice opposition to vaccine mandates and public health measures.

People taking part in the protest are displaying Canadian and American flags and holding signs calling for governments to mandate freedom instead of vaccines.

Some stood outside in bitter cold temperatures while others looped around Broadway in vehicles honking their horns in support of the protest.

“I’m out today because I want freedom,” said Cindy Bachynski, a St. Vital resident attending the protest. “I haven’t been able to do anything in two years. I was a (Winnipeg Blue) Bombers season ticket holder since 2007 and they told me I could no longer go to games without a vaccine.”

Large protest vehicles are blocking Memorial Boulevard from St. Mary Avenue to Broadway as well as York Avenue at Osborne Street. The demonstrators have been allowed to use Memorial as a staging area, according to Winnipeg police.

Danny Smyth, Chief of the Winnipeg Police Service, estimated there were 50-70 vehicles in the area Friday but said he didn’t know what that equates to in terms of the number of people taking part.

Smyth said organizers have been cooperative with officers and are conducting their protest peacefully.

When asked whether this protest will carry into the weekend, Smyth said he wasn't sure what the organizers had planned but he noted that police will continue to deal with the situation as they are doing so now.

"We will work with the organizers as long as we need to. At the present time, the resources being required to manage this event are modest," said Smyth.

Friday’s demonstration follows a convoy protest taking place in Ottawa against pandemic restrictions that initially started out in opposition of a cross-border vaccine mandate for truckers.

The protest in Winnipeg started early Friday morning with around 20 large vehicles parked outside the Legislative Building. But by around 10 a.m. several people on foot filled the intersection of Broadway and Memorial Boulevard while allowing traffic to continue moving through the area in both directions.

Despite the Manitoba government suggesting public health restrictions could end this spring, some on site said it’s time to end measures and mandates now.

“I’m pro-choice,” said Jerome Desilets, who showed up in support of the rally.

He said while he’s double vaccinated he doesn’t agree with vaccine mandates and won’t be getting a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine because he doesn’t believe health officials when they say it will better protect him from a coronavirus infection.

“I’ve got my passport,” Desilets said. “I went out, I got both shots and my passport but I’m not going to walk around doing this. There came a point when they were asked solid questions and not being able to even give an honest answer.”

Provincial public officials have said someone who gets a booster shot is 26 times less likely to be hospitalized, 139 times less likely to require intensive care and 63 times less likely to die compared to an unvaccinated person.

People who work at the Manitoba Legislative Building were advised to work remotely Friday because of potential challenges accessing and exiting the grounds outside the site.

The impact on downtown residents, workers and businesses has been noticeable but some said Friday any disruptions have been minimal thus far.

“Horn blowing is annoying but other than that, no,” said downtown resident Melvin Smith. “In here (his home) it’s not going to bother me. Or, even on the street. I don’t really give a damn if they want to do that.”

Mathew Kozokowsky, who works downtown, said he didn’t have any trouble driving into work but he said some people are wondering what the drive home will be like.

“I wasn’t expecting as much of a scene here in Winnipeg but here we are,” Kozokowsky said. “Everybody’s got an opinion and you’re allowed to have that. Whether or not I agree with it is not really a concern. It’s good that we can do that here in Canada and express ourselves.”

OhDoughnuts tweeted its downtown location on Broadway would be closed Friday as a precaution due to what it called a “misguided protest” which is “making everything worse for small businesses.”  

Mayor Brian Bowman said he hopes business disruption isn't something that continues long-term in the area.

"Businesses have been hit particularly hard during the pandemic, we don't want to see additional and prolonged disruptions for our local businesses," said Bowman.

The mayor added he has spoken with Premier Heather Stefanson about the protest and highlighted a need for calm during this situation.

"The issues that are being discussed right now in some of these protests are very emotional. I think that what is important for our residents to know is government officials are doing their best to respect the rights of our residents. Both those protesting, as well as Winnipeggers themselves who may not share the views of those protesting."

Stefanson confirmed staff at the Legislature were asked to work from home on Friday due to the protest.

"It is really for the safety of those employees," Stefanson said following a meeting with Canadian Premiers on Friday.

"As far as I know, it is a peaceful protest so far and so we hope it continues along those lines and that we can get people back to work as soon as possible."

Stefanson encouraged those protesting to be peaceful, but said if things start to deteriorate, there will be action taken.

Lorelle Perry, office manager of Arena Hand and Arm Clinic at Broadway and Edmonton St., said patients were advised to prepare for delays but no appointments were cancelled.

“Things are still moving, slowly. One patient had his bus rerouted so he was a little later,” Perry said. “It’s kind of small potatoes. We called patients to confirm they were in fact coming in. Most patients were willing to come in because they’ve waited a long time for the appointment.”

“We just have this cacophony of honking outside. I guess demonstrations are polarizing and inconvenient and yet at the same time I keep thinking I’m just glad that we live in a country where we can do this, whether we agree with it or not.”


A negotiation expert says he is mystified by a lack of enforcement at convoy protests across the country.

"What needs to happen right now is that the law enforcement must take a position, which recognizes they have multiple tools at their disposal," said Sean MacDonald, an instructor on negotiation and consensus building at the Asper School of Business.

"What's happened right now is a bit mystifying, they are even let letting them expand, build structures bring gas. They're not starving off the protests, they're letting it expand. And to me, I don't understand that."

MacDonald said many protests are given a bit of flexibility and slack at the beginning but eventually will need to be shut down.

"It's becoming more of an occupation," he said, adding people do have a right to protest, but questioned whether it is coming at a cost of other people's rights.

"It's one thing to wave the flag and make a lot of noise, but at some point in time when you're infringing on other people's rights, that's the limit." Top Stories

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