Guelph has done pretty well avoiding the kind of anti-mask, anti-COVID restriction demonstrations that have popped in other places. (A mask burning event last weekend in Idaho comes to mind.) But this weekend, the controversy comes to town, and it seems like have a Who’s Who in anti-masking, anti-vaxxing and conspiracy theories are going to be on hand for the festivities.
Much of the organizing seems like it’s being done by a local Facebook user called “SheLaw Hunter”, who’s page is a wash in memes and posts that bring up the worst of internet conspiracy culture in the year 2021. Over the last week, “Hunter” has been updating the line-up of people that will supposedly be taking part in Sunday’s event.
To run down the various people and groups who are said to be appearing at the event:
“Celebration for Life” – This is what an event in Riverside Park was called last summer. It was a small gathering of anti-maskers, and QAnon-style conspiracy theorists.
Kellyanne Wolfe – Wolfe, who’s real name is Kelly Anne Farkus, was arrested at an anti-mask rally in Toronto in January on a charge of common nuisance, and immediate started a GoFundMe page to raise money for her legal defence. She also appeared in a viral video from July 2020 where she claimed to be a member of Mensa, even though she mispronounced credentials as “cre-de-dentials”. Twice.
Stand Up Canada – A group that has connections to the two other groups mentioned after it, Vaccine Choice Canada and Hugs Over Masks. It’s uncertain how much a formal connection exists between the three, but a case can easily be made there’s a symbiotic relationship between them and that they share memberships and promotional opportunities. Hugs Over Mask founder Vladislav Sobolev told CBC News last summer that U.S. anti-vax advocate Sherri Tenpenny had provided leadership and guidance for his group.
Canadian Frontline Nurses – The Sarah and Kristin in the earlier post are likely a reference to Kristen Nagle,and Sarah Choujounian, two Ontario nurses that flew to Washington D.C. for a COVID conspiracy event that took place on the same day as the Capitol Insurrection on January 6. Both women were put under investigation by the College of Nurses of Ontario, and Nagle was subsequently fired from her job at the London Health Sciences Centre.
Open Your Business group – After searches on Facebook, Google and Twitter, there seems to be no such group as “Open Your Business”
Project Phoenix – This may be a reference to an anti-lockdown event organized by 13-year-old Phoenix Scott, with help from her mom Mairi Corneman in Woodstock in January. About 20 people took part in the protest and five tickets were given out. A member of the Woodstock police told the London Free Press that most of the participants were from out of town. There was another Project Phoenix appearance in Hamilton a week later that was phrased as a charity event to help the homeless.
Retired teacher from Ridley College – No idea who this refers to, but Ridley College is a private day school in St. Catherine’s. In January, a small group of anti-maskers gathered outside St. Catherine’s city hall for a stunt to put Mayor Walter Sendzik under citizen’s arrest, saying he had “abused children by supporting mask bylaws.” No real charges have been filed against Sendzik.
Frontline workers (Drop In Centre, HOPE House) -Jaya James, the executive director of HOPE House, told Guelph Politico that no staff members from her organization are participating in this event. The executive director of the Drop In Centre did not respond in time for publication.
University of Waterloo professor and licensed chiropractor – This may be a reference to Dr. Michael Palmer and Dr. Jeff Winchester. Palmer made the news last fall when he told students in his biochemical pharmacology course at the University of Waterloo that they didn’t have to do the in-class exam “because of the COVID fake emergency.” A few weeks later, Winchester became a Free Speech warrior when he was profiled on The Rebel after a sign in front of his office read, “We welcome mask exempt. No discrimination.”
Municipal Affairs/Radio Host – The identity of this person was not posted, but the reference to “UN Agenda 21” and the ICLEI is not a new conspiracy theory. According to a 2015 article in the Guardian, “Theorists argue that Agenda 21, a 23-year-old non-binding UN resolution that suggests ways for governments and NGOs to promote sustainable development, is the linchpin in a plot to subjugate humanity under an eco-totalitarian regime.”
The International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives is a network of 1,750 local and regional governments in over 100 countries who share information on sustainable development that combats rapid urbanization and the effects of climate change. Mayor Cam Guthrie is not a member, he’s just listed on the site as the present mayor of Guelph, which is recognized as one of the member governments.
Last month, another anti-mask protest in St. George’s Square drew raised voices and raised emotions, but only a few people attended. Dave Driver, the organzier of the protest, told GuelphToday.com that his protest, like this one, was not about being against masks. “We’re not anti-maskers like they say we are. We’re pro-freedom and our rights and freedom are slowly being removed away more rapidly in the last year because of COVID,” he said.
The protest is schedule for 1 pm this Sunday, March 14, in St. George’s Square.