Nursing groups in Newfoundland and Labrador are denouncing a protest against COVID-19 vaccination mandates and vaccine passports held Monday.
About 50 people held signs and photographs displaying phrases such as "I Stand For Freedom" and "My Body, My Choice" to a number of honking cars outside the Health Sciences Centre.
Organizer Dana Metcalfe, a small business owner in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's, is a representative of a group called Canadian Frontline Nurses and a federal election candidate running for the People's Party of Canada.
Canadian Frontline Nurses was founded by two Ontario nurses who have promoted conspiracy theories about COVID-19. The group aims to advocate for medical freedom, unite nurses across Canada and, according to its website, "bring ethics back into healthcare."
Before the protest, the Registered Nurses' Union of Newfoundland and Labrador issued a statement condemning the views of Canadian Frontline Nurses.
"The audacity of fringe groups to attempt to derail the progress we have made in fighting this pandemic is astounding, disappointing and does not represent the professional standards that are expected when identifying oneself as a registered nurse," said a separate statement from the College of Registered Nurses, the provincial nurses' regulatory body.
While Metcalfe said protesters are against the idea of vaccination passports, she stressed the protest was not anti-vaccine. She said a "large part" of the group protesting were vaccinated against COVID-19, but would not disclose her own vaccination status.
"It's a very, very slippery slope that we're on in regards to medical autonomy, human rights," Metcalfe said Monday. "I think Newfoundland should take a pause."
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey announced the province would be moving forward with a vaccination passport earlier this month. He said it will use a QR code to show vaccination status through a mobile app similar to that used in Quebec.
Vaccination passports are being used across the country to ensure people entering high-risk areas are vaccinated, along with serving as an entry requirement at some sporting events and concerts.
Metcalfe said she believes the use of vaccination passports would "decimate" businesses in the region.
"We also need our children and our economy to keep moving," she said. "It's not about mandating things or suppressing things, It's about listening to the people and paying attention to what's happening."
CBC News asked Furey to address concerns from protesters of misinformation and their stance on vaccination passports but instead a Health Department spokesperson provided an emailed statement that said Newfoundland and Labrador supports the science of vaccination.
Travis Day, who said he's a registered nurse working in St. John's, said he came to the protest to defend his own principles.
"There's certain principles that I stand for that have become very controversial. [It's] surprising, I didn't think they would be as controversial," he said. "It's being really painted as a black and white issue. I don't believe that's the case."
Day said he believes more of a focus should be put on the success the province has had handling the pandemic than on what he believes would be harsher restrictions.
"I think there needs to be a little more celebration of what we have accomplished versus still enforcing these really strict mandates," he said. "I agree with a lot of things Newfoundland has done up until this point, where I really have to disagree."