A small group gathered outside of the campaign office of MP Patty Hajdu Monday, protesting policies that require vaccination to access businesses or maintain employment.
Most members of the group, which numbered about 15 people, declined to speak with media, with one briefly obstructing media from photographing the rally.
One attendee said they were concerned about the precedent that could be set by vaccine requirements, and questioned whether the threat of COVID-19 truly justified the rules.
Another said they were against vaccines “being mandated for entering many businesses and institutions.”
The group’s objections were not specific to the Liberal party, she said, but they hoped to draw attention to the issue during the federal election by holding it in front of a campaign office.
Hajdu's campaign didn't directly address the protest when asked for comment, but the Health Minister said she urges Canadians to "trust the science backing vaccines, to protect themselves, their families, and their communities."
Participants bore signs with slogans like “No Vax Mandate for Canada” and “No mandatory vaccines. My body my choice.” Others raised concerns over potential adverse effects from a vaccine.
Health authorities and researchers have consistently found that people face greater health risks from COVID-19 than from rare occurrences of adverse reactions to the vaccine, with limited exceptions for those with rare allergies.
The Thunder Bay District Health Unit has said the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are similar to those from other immunizations.
Ontario will require people to provide proof of vaccination to enter higher risk indoor settings like restaurants and bars, meeting and event spaces, gyms, casinos, and movie theatres as of Sept. 22.
Premier Doug Ford and provincial health leaders have warned that the province faces a fourth wave of infections that could challenge hospital capacity and impact the ability to offer other health services heading into the fall.
On Oct. 22, the provincial government will introduce a digital vaccine passport with a QR code for smartphones. Prior to the release of the digital certificate, residents can download or print a vaccine receipt online, which can be used along with photo ID.
Those who have legitimate health reasons for not being vaccinated will be exempt.
Employers in the public and private sector are increasingly implementing vaccine policies, some mandated by federal or provincial law.
Some employers’ vaccine policies allow those who choose not to be vaccinated to instead submit to testing, while others have indicated they will suspend or terminate unvaccinated employees who do not have a health or creed exemption.
As of Sept. 4, 82.5 per cent of Thunder Bay District residents had received at least one shot of the vaccine, with 74.6 per cent fully vaccinated, according to the Thunder Bay District Health Unit.
The health unit offers information about COVID-19 vaccines on its website, and an “ask a nurse” phone line for anyone who has questions about the safety or effectiveness of the vaccine at (807) 625-5900 (ext. 5108).
Note: This article has been updated with comment from the campaign of Patty Hajdu.