SUNDRE — Passing vehicles occasionally honked yesterday in support of approximately 150 people who gathered for an anti-lockdown rally.
The Mountain View Freedom group organized the March 27 event, which featured numerous speakers and was held on the south side of the Highway 27-Main Avenue corridor in an open lot across the road from Shell and A&W.
A police cruiser was parked nearby with its lights flashing, but the rally remained peaceful throughout the duration. Masks were few and far between and the crowd sparsely spread out.
Among those who attended were Sundre and area residents Brenda Day and Norm Thiesen.
“This is way too much overreach into our personal lives,” said Thiesen about the government’s pandemic protocols.
Having also participated at other rallies in the region such as the one in Olds, Thiesen said about the Mountain View Freedom group, “I believe in what they’re doing.”
“It’s time (to end the restrictions),” he added.
Although businesses including restaurants are open, government measures restrict the number of people allowed indoors and also mandate wearing masks in public spaces. Additionally, rules pertaining to sports remain fairly restrictive, with groups like the Sundre Soccer Club waiting until the government announces easements that will facilitate the return to playing on the local fields.
“This has gone on long enough. There’s been too much fallout from all these measures,” said Day, who attended in support of not only local businesses but also children.
“I hope to see the businesses open fully. I hope to see children get back to their sports and not have to be muzzled up in school,” she said, when asked what she hopes the rallies will accomplish.
Doug Mantai, from Didsbury, took turns introducing all of the speakers, who were Shondell Sabad, a finance professional from Calgary; the outspoken former Town of Innisfail councillor Glen Carritt who is running for that municipality’s mayorship; Rick Kohut, a holistic nutritionist from Didsbury; and Nadine Wellwood, from Cochrane, who during the last federal election ran under the banner of the People’s Party of Canada.
Sabad stressed that his intention was not to minimize the pandemic and those affected by COVID-19, but expressed concerns that the cost has been too great, referring to the toll on the public’s mental health.
“We’re told that we’re all in this together,” he said.
“My belief is that this could not be further from the truth. We’re all in the same storm, for sure. But we’re not all on the same ship. Some are on the five-star luxury liner, many others are drowning at sea.”
He expressed the opinion that the pandemic protocols have caused more harm than good, especially with regards with seniors enduring lockdowns that have left them isolated and lonely.
“The hardships that the lockdowns have created will forever shape us and who we are,” he said.
“We must all ask ourselves and ask our leaders without judgment, criticism or divisiveness to do and be better.”
Carritt called to “pull the Band-Aid off. Let’s open up. Let’s be Florida, let’s be Texas, let’s be South Dakota, and let’s open up our businesses and get back to work,” he said to applause and cowbells.
He said the onus should be on the government to justify the lockdowns.
“We’re not two weeks into this anymore. It’s a year later, it’s time to take our freedoms back,” he said, later adding the response to COVID-19 can’t focus exclusively on public health at the expense of the economy.
“They’re not looking at the economic part of it. They’re only looking at the health, which is important,” he said.
“But we need to look at the other side of it, and figure out how to come out of it.”
He called Premier Jason Kenney “out of touch” and rejected the “new normal. We need to get back to the rodeos.”
Wrapping up his comments, he urged people not to obey the government in the event of another lockdown.
“That government will not be there to bail you out when you’re broke,” he said.
Kohut, who has relatives in Sundre, expressed concerns about the mental health impact on children caused by pandemic protocols such as masking up in schools. He added to applause that no children have died as a result of COVID-19, but that their mental well being has suffered.
“That should be our number one job,” he said about protecting kids.
“Nothing good ever happened by sitting and waiting for the government to tell you what to do.”
Taking to the stage last, Wellwood said that people should be provided with information and recommendations and entrusted to act accordingly.
“Politicians have failed us,” she said.
Wellwood also said during a nearly 30-minute address that party politics are a big part of the problem, and that people should elect officials who represent their constituents and defend their rights, not party policy.
“We have to elect people — not parties — people, who are honest, transparent and authentic,” she said.
“This is not about party politics. It’s a big reason why we’re in the mess that we’re in. No more bums that sit in the seat that just parrots a party leader.”
Following the presentations, organizers with Mountain View Freedom sold merchandise and also accepted donations for the food bank as the crowd slowly but surely dispersed.