WINNIPEG -- Winnipeg was one of several Canadian cities to hold a "March to Unmask" demonstration on Sunday.

Protesters urged the Manitoba government to rule out mask requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We need to have our health in our own hands. We need to have the freedom to choose if we wear a mask or not," said Patrick Allard, the head of the "Manitoba Together" Facebook group, which organized Sunday's rally.

Around two dozen people gathered at the Manitoba legislature for the event. Several jurisdictions, including Toronto, Ottawa and the province of Quebec, made masks mandatory in indoor public spaces to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Demonstrators in Winnipeg said they fear Manitoba could follow suit.

"Should we wait and be retroactive? Or be proactive and ensure it doesn't happen?" asked Allard.

He said masks are unnecessary because most people with "common sense" will stay home if they're showing symptoms. Allard added masks create an additional barrier for people who are hearing impaired. 

"People who have a hearing disability need to see our mouths move in order to communicate," he said. "What we're doing is further disabling people."

Earlier this month, Manitoba's Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said there is no plan to mandate masks but didn't rule out the possibility. 

"It's something we have at our disposal should we need, but right now, we don't see the need to mandate the use of masks here... Certainly not with the evidence right now and certainly not with the level of virus that is circulating in Manitoba right now," he said.

On Sunday, Allard accused the province of "dictating" public health orders, as he held up a sign reading "Polices Based on Fear."


Crowds gathered from Ottawa to Vancouver Sunday to protest mask requirements and dispute their effectiveness.

In Alberta, where cases have spiked, Calgary city council plans to meet Monday to discuss a possible mask bylaw.

Emergency room physician Dr. Joe Vipond is part of the advocacy group "Masks4Canada," which is urging councillors to pass the bylaw.

He said masks are proven to reduce the spread of the virus in indoor or public spaces. Dr. Vipond said "online misinformation" is fuelling the anti-mask movement.

"There is a lot of stuff saying 'COVID is not a big deal.' It is a big deal. I'm seeing people very sick in the hospital. This is not an imaginary hoax," said Dr. Vipond. "People say this is an infringement on our freedom. We have restrictions on our freedoms every day. When I drove to work today, I drove on the right side of the road."

He said masks are particularly important as provinces continue to reopen. "We're being encouraged to participate in society, so it's important these masks are being worn."