Teens crash anti-mask mandate protest in Regina

·3 min read

A protest held by a group upset about mandatory mask rules outside of the TC Douglas Building in Regina today was met by counter-protestors from high schools in the Queen City.

"I think we're all aware that their claims are way out there and I'm not sure that too many of us believe them," Elizah Orell, a Grade 11 student at Luther College in Regina said.

"They're telling you not to wear a mask and not to do the right thing, [and it's important] that we were here to send the right message and share the right idea to Saskatchewan."

About half an hour before the protest and counter-protest kicked off, the province announced new measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Those measures didn't go far enough for Orell, who called for masks to be mandatory in every community in Saskatchewan. The masking issue hit an even more personal note for Orell, who said her grandmother recently completed chemotherapy.

Bryan Eneas/CBC
Bryan Eneas/CBC

"It's really important to me that we're keeping all those people safe and that we're doing our best to protect people that need us to protect them," Orell said.

Martine Carlita, who runs the No Masks Sask. Facebook group and participated in the protest the teens crashed, said she respected their right to protest.

"It's a free society, so they can speak. I have respect for their belief ... but they must respect my right," she said.

Protests concerning to doctors

Dr. Cory Neudorf, a public health doctor and professor of epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan's College of Medicine, said the protests in Saskatchewan were frustrating and said their actions were endangering others.

"All it takes is a few more seeds of that virus to get planted by actions like this and we start with another flare up, another outbreak," Neudorf said.

"It leads to exponential growth and we start putting our health system at a strain."

Submitted by Elizah Orell
Submitted by Elizah Orell

He called on those in opposition of mandatory mask rules to properly look into the science, not just the side of the science they want to hear, and understand why the restrictions are put in place.

Newly-appointed Health Minister Paul Merriman said those who gather have a right to protest, but they must abide by public health orders.

Neudorf said the response was factual, but called for a clearer response from the province on the matter.

Bryan Eneas/CBC
Bryan Eneas/CBC

He said there's evidence to prove that previous protests around mask laws have not abided by public health orders and said this is an issue the minister can't "talk out of both sides."

Rights vs. responsibilities

Neudorf said there's a false dichotomy in the narrative that's being created around mandatory masking, in that those opposed to it are arguing their rights are being violated.

He said peoples' rights need to be balanced with their responsibility to their community and some people need to realize that if exercising their right to do something endangers others, they can expect it to be limited in some fashion.

He cited traffic laws — like rules around speeding as an example — and said suggestions around speed limits aren't suggested, they're limited for a reason.

Bryan Eneas/CBC
Bryan Eneas/CBC

"People have to get the message that this isn't an issue of taking away a right," Neudorf said.

"This is a temporary measure that's needed, it's effective. And just like many other rules that we need to follow for safety reasons, this is just another one."