BONNYVILLE - On Saturday, more than 450 people gathered in the Town of Bonnyville to march down Main Street and around the town’s municipal building in protest to requirements being implemented at several workplaces mandating employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“We are here standing together as a community,” Trevor Schaffrick told Lakeland Today. Schaffrick is one of the organizers of the We Stand for Freedom March as well as the pastor of the Bonnyville Fellowship Alliance Church.
“This is not about the vaccine,” he said. “In the crowd today, we have people vaccinated and unvaccinated. This is about returning to rule of law and opposing the attitude of control that is taking place.”
Before the crowd began to march from the Bonnyville and District Centennial Centre through town, Schaffrick told participants that they may experience opposition – things thrown at them or slurs yelled from passing vehicles.
“Don’t engage them. This is a peaceful assembly,” he said.
As families and individuals, young and old, walked down the sidewalks with their signs donning phrases like “My body, my choice” and “Consent over mandates, freedom over coercion,” they were met instead with cheers and honks of support by passing vehicles.
Before the march began, Schaffrick did ask participants with signs promoting anti-vaccine messages to leave them behind.
“The focal point of this march is very specific. Workers should not be forced into a position where they will lose their livelihood if they choose not to accept a forced medical procedure,” he said.
Schaffrick added that similarly, businesses should not be forced to withhold services from customers based on proof of vaccination either. “It's government overreach,” he said.
Speaking for himself on the topic of COVID-19 vaccines, Schaffrick added, “There is a lack of balanced dialogue in the public. When voices are silenced, suspicion – of course – will grow in society.”
He added, “You cannot have informed consent if you eliminate dialogue."
In response to feedback he received after the walk regarding a profane slogan pointed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau printed on a truck involved in the rally, Schaffrick said he wanted to clarify that he does not endorse any dishonour or disrespect toward government leaders.
"While I may disagree with their policies, those who know me will attest that I directly confront any slander toward them that I hear. We must always direct our objections to the policies, not the people, who are loved by God," said Schaffrick.