Abby Blaszczyk attended a vaccination clinic on November 28 with her son Nolan, 7, who recently became eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. Entering and exiting the meeting, Blaszczyk said he faced a torrent of verbal harassment from anti-vaccine protesters.
They told me I was killing my son, that I was committing genocide, stuff like that.– Abby Blaszczyk
Blaszczyk said it was a disturbing experience for his mother and four-year-old daughter, who both came to support Nolan as he was shot.
“They told me I was killing my son, that I was committing genocide, stuff like that. And then, just misinformation about the vaccine itself, ”she said.
She said she was shocked by the display, especially because she hadn’t faced any similar protests when she was vaccinated at adult clinics earlier in the year. Blaszczyk said he heard from several families who had the same experience at the clinic.
“I just wanted to protect my son and daughter and get out of there as fast as possible,” she said.
Workers at the clinic, held at One Kids Place, told Blaszczyk they had not seen anyone while they were settling in earlier, she said. At the time, Blaszczyk said there was no police or security presence at the clinic, but when a friend showed up three hours later, there was only one police car on site.
She said police should have been on site all day, given the reported behavior of the protesters.
“The things they were shouting were verbal assaults. It was assault, it was harassment and it was intimidation; it was not a protest, ”she said.
North Bay Police have confirmed that the force is investigating an incident at the children’s vaccination clinic, saying they will issue a press release on November 30.
“The NBPS respects individual rights to demonstrate peacefully but cannot tolerate any interference with people’s right to safety when they go to one of the clinics. We will ensure an increased police presence in the clinic area and if the demonstration escalates into criminal behavior, we will not hesitate to take coercive measures, ”said Insp. Jeff Warner in an emailed statement.
Difficult conversations with children
Blaszczyk said she must have had difficult conversations with her children about the behavior they witnessed. She said she feared her son would have difficulty getting the vaccine in the future due to the experience that day.
“I will continue to talk to him about it as best we can. Just explaining that these people are just stalkers, they are bullies of scared little children who are just trying to seek health care, ”she said.
North Bay Mayor Al McDonald said he supported the democratic right to protest, but the behavior of this clinic was absolutely unacceptable. He said he encouraged people to follow medical advice and get vaccinated, but for those who insist on protesting, do so appropriately.
“Come and demonstrate at the town hall, make as much noise as possible. But you don’t have to harass or, you know, yell obscenities at grandparents or parents or families who are out there trying to do what’s best for their kids, ”McDonald said.
He said it was important for people to seek medical advice and accurate information on vaccinations, and that he expected to see a safety presence at future vaccination clinics. When CBC News spoke with the mayor, he had yet to speak to North Bay Police for an account of the incident.
Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli said in a statement that there are already laws in place to protect individuals from bullying and harassment when getting vaccinated.
“It is already a criminal offense to threaten and intimidate people and the police have the power to disperse protests,” Fedeli said.
He said any kind of harassment targeting patients or healthcare workers is “disgusting and totally unacceptable”.
The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit has said vaccination is the best way to protect people from COVID-19 and that people should respect those who have made the informed choice to get vaccinated.
“The health unit recognizes the right to peaceful protest, however, intimidation and harassment of young children and their families attending immunization clinics are unacceptable forms of protest. The health unit is working closely with local police and security companies to increase guarantees for both customers and staff, ”he said in a statement.
The health unit did not respond to a follow-up question until the time of publication about why security was not on site throughout the clinic.