Kamloops nurse who inspired hospital protests has no regrets | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops nurse who inspired hospital protests has no regrets

Protestors are seen outside Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021.
September 04, 2021 - 6:30 AM

The protests against vaccine card policies that garnered thousands of supporters across the country to rally outside of hospitals were inspired by the efforts of one Kamloops nurse.

Glenn Aalderink, a nurse at Royal Inland Hospital, has been at the head of "Freedom Rallies" in Kamloops for months during the pandemic. In early days, he led protests against public health orders like mask mandates and limits on social gatherings.

After joining a group called "Canadian Frontline Nurses," it appears he found like-minded peers — healthcare workers who oppose pandemic measures — from across Canada.

In a recent interview with Bright Light News published to YouTube, Canadian Frontline Nurses co-founder Kristen Nagle said the idea for the nationwide protest was "initiated" by Aalderink.

"The idea initiated with one of our supporters, Canadian Frontline member — nurse — in B.C., Glenn. He kind of organized it for Kamloops and we wanted to make this spread," she said in the interview. "So we decided to make it a nationwide event for healthcare workers, and everyone really that is being affected by these mandates, to take a stand."

READ MORE: 'How dare you': Healthcare workers react to rally against COVID vaccine cards at Kelowna General

Aalderink told iNFOnews.ca that the Sept. 1 protest that spread to Vancouver and Kelowna and other cities across Canada, including Saskatoon, Sask. and London, Ont. to name a few, was an effort to pressure public health authorities to rescind any mandates for healthcare workers to be vaccinated.

While the controversial protest started with a narrow focus to support healthcare workers, it gained a following far beyond the healthcare industry and put hundreds of people, perhaps thousands loudly protesting out front of hospitals, including in Kamloops, Vancouver and Kelowna. The location shocked many people and stirred widespread reactions from government officials and other healthcare workers, who said the protest added more stress to an industry that has been pushed to its limits throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

When Aalderink was asked what he had to say to those workers who were disappointed to see the protest in front of hospitals, he said: "That was not our intention. I was looking ahead and seeing how much stress we'd be under if we (nurses) were all forced to leave."

"I've been there. I've done what I could.... I did volunteer on the COVID floor until my injury. I would have kept doing my job no matter what. Here's the thing: I'm still willing to do my job without the vaccine," Aalderink said. "People are going to die no matter what and you can't save everyone. I get that people want to, but I've had patients die and it's broken me at that moment."

When asked if he stands by his choice to create what became a massive nation-wide protest, he said "yes, I do" but admitted his message may have been lost in the noise of too many messages.

Provincial orders are set to soon require healthcare workers be vaccinated in order to work in the industry, but the protest was planned before the province laid out details of vaccine mandates for all healthcare workers.

After weighing the risks, he said he is fine with getting COVID-19, still doubtful of the current vaccines.

He said that, as he had done with earlier "Freedom Rally" protests, he warned Kamloops RCMP of the protest two weeks ahead and discussed where they could go. When speaking ahead of the protest, he said he told all protesters to stay on sidewalks and away from emergency vehicle routes.

While he anticipated strong support, he did not expect the crowd that showed up in Kamloops.

"When I went around the corner and saw the front of the (Kamloops Law Courts) I had no idea there'd be that many people. I don't know 2,000 people. This was done out of sheer desperation to get through to higher-ups to stop this idiotic, destructive policy, because it's our healthcare that's going to get gutted," he said. He believes if unvaccinated healthcare workers are forced out, hospitals are likely to reaching a breaking point with low staffing levels. 

Aalderink's message and those of the protesters who showed up to join him were not exactly the same. Many signs around Royal Inland Hospital on Sept. 1 took issue with vaccine mandates to enter restaurants and others even alluding to conspiracy theories that permeate the "Freedom Rally" movement.

One sign clearly demanded higher wages for B.C. nurses, showing that some fell in line with Aalderink's message.

He added that the recent vaccination cards in B.C. are "third on his list" of concerns, behind mandates for healthcare workers and government transparency on vaccination numbers. He previously told iNFOnews.ca that instead of distancing himself from conspiracy theorist ideologies, it's important to have conversations with those people.

Aalderink's efforts to protest the public health orders started about two months after the COVID-19 pandemic health measures came into effect. They stemmed from both a libertarian philosophy and the pain of seeing his daughter's sadness when she was unable to see her grandparents.

In March, he told iNFOnews.ca that an exchange of vaccinations for a lifting of public health orders was "blackmail," which he still strongly believes, leaving little room for compromise.

READ MORE: B.C. premier supports health-care workers after protests against vaccine cards

Nagle took part in protests in London, Ont. on Sept. 1, according to her social media.

"Right now we're at a pivotal moment to make change... and bring the ethics back into healthcare, because it has been gone for a very long time," she said in the interview. "Informed consent, medical freedom, health freedom has been missing from the healthcare system... since I started nursing 14 years ago."

According to the CBC, Nagle was "terminated with cause" by her employer London Health Sciences Centre in January 2021. Aalderink is also likely to face consequences for his actions and words but would not comment on the record on his conversations with his employer.

Aalderink told iNFOnews.ca that he is concerned that any mandates to force vaccinations for healthcare workers would be further pressure on an already short-staffed healthcare system, which was exactly why he chose to protest in front of Royal Inland Hospital.

"I've done a lot of soul-searching, and after deep thought and trepidation I said let's do it in front of the hospital," he said.

Interior Health did not respond to a request for comment prior to publication.

READ MORE: Kelowna healthcare worker opposing anti-vaccine rallies bringing his own message to hospital protest

 


To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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