LAC LA BICHE - If the correct information coming from the government isn't what you want to hear — or worse yet, isn't correct in your opinion — where do you go?
Benita Pedersen thinks you should go to a rally — one of several that she has organized in recent months to combat information and reaction about the coronavirus pandemic. The next rally — The Freedomfighters' Enough is Enough Rally is taking place in Lac La Biche on Friday, April 16.
Pedersen, a Westlock-based promoter, is the name behind the All Fired Up For Freedom website and its Alberta-born 'power-to-the-people' movement that has brought several community rallies to the Lakeland, including a recent one in Bonnyville and the upcoming one in Lac La Biche.
The Lac La Biche rally is scheduled to take place from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Jubilee Hall parking lot this Friday. There are guest speakers booked for the event. Pedersen didn't say who specifically would be on the Lac La Biche stage, just that the speakers "believe in freedom" and could include professionals, blue-collar workers, concerned parents or church pastors.
Despite the "All Fired Up" wording of her website, the "Enough is Enough" title of the upcoming rally, and her proud involvement in free-thinking, government-questioning events and digital platforms, Pedersen says she is all about discussions and debate, fact-sharing and partnerships.
The series of recent rallies — some that have contravened provincial health orders and brought the threat of fines to the organizers — are in response to what Pedersen says is mis-information coming from provincial and federal governments about the COVID-19 pandemic. Pedersen disputes much of the information being sent out by government sources and she says the pandemic is not a health crisis. Despite those beliefs, the rally organizer is quick to point out that the rallies she organizes are not intended to be one-sided. She hopes to draw interest from a wide range of people who will be open to debate and discussion about the pandemic measures as well as the government's involvement.
"This is to be an information event," she said of the upcoming Lac La Biche rally, admitting there will be an emphasis on a certain way of thinking or a certain perception of the details — but she's not opposed to hearing from differing viewpoints. "The information presented at the rally stage is more than opinion; there's evidence to back up these view points and that evidence will be presented as well."
Somewhere in the middle is where solutions can be found.
"What we need right now is a good conversations, where people ultimately share what's on their heart and on their minds. That's what needs to happen ... where we talk things out," said Pederson People can disagree, and we talk things out and that's where we are going to find the solutions."
The idea behind the rally is based on choice, she says. A choice to act on the best information possible. And in order to do that, people need to hear and see as much information as they can — not only what the government sends out, she says.
"We want to give the listener the full story. Because it's possible the listener has not yet received the full story from the government," Pederson said. "By attending the rally, they can get the full story and then they can objectively make a decision that's right for them."
Even if the opinions behind the rally's main topics are diverse, Pedersen says the premise of the event itself is sound — listen to all sides.
"What I love right now is that people are disagreeing openly more often. People are starting to speak up, which is great. What I don't as much like is when they get rude with each other.... It is possible to have open dialogue, and disagree — and refrain from being rude," Pedersen said. It is possible, and I'd like to prove that at every opportunity possible."
The organizer estimates between 100 and 200 people will attend the rally.
"There's already some people that are firm supporters of the freedom movement and we'll get those people showing up, but what I would really like to see is the people who are curious, because I can assure all attendees that they will be treated respectfully, because I can assure all attendees that they will be treated respectfully. This event is a family-friendly event ... we expect all participants to be respectful of one another."
Lac La Biche RCMP have been informed about the rally, and Lac La Biche County officials are aware that the event will be held on public, municipal property.