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HARDING: How I was fined $2,800 for reporting on Regina’s freedom rally

“Police interference in media coverage and enforcement of political doctrine might be standard practice in some parts of the world, but not Canada.”

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Sixteen people were fined following their attendance at Saturday’s “illegal” freedom rally in Regina, SK. Despite going to the demonstration to interview the speakers and cover the event, yours truly was among those who received a $2,800 fine. And it happened despite clearly demonstrating to police that I was there for journalistic purposes.

May 8 say hundreds gathered for a freedom rally in Regina’s Victoria Park to hear speakers such as Maxime Bernier, Mark Friesen, and Laura Lynn Thompson. This was a newsworthy event and a journalistic opportunity not to be missed. The opportunity to interview these members of the lockdown resistance movement in person might not come again. As they left the event, I walked with my recording device in hand to seize my final opportunity to get a few quotes.

As the crew readied themselves to get into a truck for subsequent events, police cruisers showed up to hand $2,800 tickets to the three noted above, and another speaker, activist R. B. Ham. At that point I introduced myself to police as a journalist with the Western Standard.

I asked the police if I would have problems if I went back to the event. They suggested I not cut through the park on my way back to the bus. I walked straight down the street and encountered another two police officers, whom I asked the same question: “am I permitted to attend as a journalist?” An officer who had been taking pictures of attendees told me that decision would be made by someone higher up the food chain than him.

At that point I overheard R C the Rapper, who hails from Edmonton. When his performance ended, I interviewed him, walked down the pathway for pictures. We were almost out of the park when police confronted us.

An officer I had not seen before asked for my identification. I told him that I was there as a journalist and showed him my writing portfolios online. Then he asked me why I wasn’t wearing a mask or social distancing. I pulled the mask out of my pocket and told him that I wore it until I got to the park, but after people started staring at me, I took it off. It was a place and time largely reversed from government-endorsed gatherings at Costco, where wearing a mask – outdoors – made one stand out. 

There is no cabinet order from the Moe government requiring one to wear a mask outside; just an order not to protest. 

Regardless, the officer decided to issue me a ticket immediately. (The rapper also received a ticket there, as well as one at an event the following day in Saskatoon.) Oddly enough, as this was happening, Premier Moe announced that as of May 17, the allowable limit for public gatherings would rise from 10 to 150.

My ticket begs some disturbing questions. Are only government-funded journalists that wear a mask outdoors allowed to cover events of this nature without being ticketed? Is it only government-funded media outlets that deceptively say few people were at an event that was, in fact, attended by hundreds? 

Police interference in media coverage and enforcement of political doctrine might be standard practice in some parts of the world, but not Canada. Already, big tech companies censor and regulate dissenting opinion, and Bill C-10 is preparing the way for the federal government to directly control the content not just of online media like the Western Standard, but of individual users. 

Canada, and Saskatchewan, have entered a dark chapter that we are a long way from knowing the end of. 

Lee Harding is the Saskatchewan Political Columnist for the Western Standard

Opinion

OPEN LETTER: Health care workers against mandatory vaccinations

The letter was signed by 3,544 health care workers including 73 physicians, 1,111 nurses, 227 paramedics and thousands of allied health professionals, pharmacists, dentists, lab workers, psychologists and counselling professionals, medical students, AHS administrative and support staff and other health care professionals.

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An open letter penned by Alberta Health Services (AHS) workers was sent to AHS on Monday by Calgary constitutional lawyer Carol Crosson.

The letter was signed by 3,544 health care workers including 73 physicians, 1,111 nurses, 227 paramedics and thousands of allied health professionals, pharmacists, dentists, lab workers, psychologists and counselling professionals, medical students, AHS administrative and support staff and other health care professionals.

Dear Dr. Verna Yiu:

This open letter is in response to your announcement of mandatory full vaccination for all AHS staff by Oct 31, 2021. We represent a wide range of vaccinated and unvaccinated health care professionals from multiple disciplines, who are deeply concerned about these mandatory vaccinations.

There are many reasons why we stand against mandatory vaccination and highlight some of them below. These concerns are supported by peer-reviewed publications and statements by established organizations:

• These mRNA vaccines have not been proven to prevent disease uptake nor disease transmission supported by the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report August 6, 2021 / 70(31);1059-1062 (among other reports) where it is stated “Real-time RT-PCR Ct values in specimens from 127 fully vaccinated patients (median = 22.77) were similar to those among 84 patients who were unvaccinated, not fully vaccinated, or whose vaccination status was unknown (median = 21.54)”. Asymptomatic unvaccinated people have never been proven to be more infectious or transmit more disease than vaccinated individuals.

• The overall survival rate from COVID is approximately 99.7% and varies by age and underlying health status.

• The vaccine is showing weakened efficacy after only a few months. AHS’s own data shows currently approximately 25% of all new cases are in fully vaccinated patients and over 18% of hospitalizations are also fully vaccinated with percentages increasing as weeks go by.

• The United Kingdom and Israel – two highly vaccinated countries have extremely high percentages of hospitalized patients being fully vaccinated. Indeed, the Israeli Public Health Department recently estimated the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine had fallen to 39% against the Delta variant and another recent study from the Mayo clinic had similar numbers at 42%

• Historically, scientific consensus has been that natural immunity is superior to vaccine immunity. Many health care workers are already Covid recovered and immune. What evidence does AHS have for mandatory vaccines in those individuals?

As front-line health care workers, we have witnessed serious adverse events, including deaths, that were temporally, closely associated from the administration of these vaccines.

• As per VAERS data (US vaccine injury database), Aug. 27, 2021, at least 650,077 people in the US have been injured and 13,911 people have died soon after the administration of the Covid vaccine. These numbers could actually be 10-100x higher as a Harvard study showed only 1-10% of all adverse events are actually recorded. The Harvard study’s findings are corroborated by our experience that the vast majority of temporally related adverse events are not being correlated and reported by healthcare workers. If we don’t correlate these temporally related events and report them, the data will never be there to accurately assess causality and truly ensure safety, which is the bedrock to obtaining proper informed consent.

We believe that the proposed vaccine mandate is contrary to section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms “freedom of conscience and religion” as well as section 7, “the right to life, liberty and the security of the person and the right to not be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

Based on our experience, the above arguments (plus others not listed in this letter) and our evaluation of the current literature, we decisively conclude that we are in strong opposition to mandatory vaccination. As of Nov 1, 2021, or earlier, AHS’s decision to implement such a mandate will prevent many dedicated health care workers and other AHS staff from performing the jobs they have done valiantly over the past eighteen months. This will put our currently severely strained health care system under further undue and needless pressure and put more Albertans at risk due to our inability to provide care for our patients. We respectfully request that the vaccine mandate be rescinded immediately so that AHS Health care workers can continue to provide care for Albertans.

cc. Dr. Laura McDougall, Senior Medical Officer of Health, AHS
Dr. Francis Belanger, Vice-President of Quality and CMO, AHS
Dr. Debrah Wirtzfield, Associate CMO, Physician Health, Diversity & Wellness, AHS
Patrick Dumelie, Covenant Health
Dr. Owen Heisler, Covenant Health

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Krahnicle’s Cartoon: Why Conservatives Lost

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AHS investigating Western Standard for restrictions, vaxport non-compliance

The AHS employee responded, “Some of these [regulations] are good, and some of these are, you know…”

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Update from the Publisher

This isn’t a regular news story since its about ourselves; so rather than drink our own bathwater and send this to one of our reporters, I’ve decided to publish this as an update from the publisher.

At 10:25 a.m. MST, the Western Standard received a telephone call from Alberta Health Services (AHS) on our office line. The AHS official — whom I will not name — dialed through to speak with yours truly.

He informed me that AHS had received a complaint that the Western Standard was not complying with government-ordered restrictions and vaccine passports. I responded plainly: “That is correct.”

He was silent for a moment, not quite knowing how to respond to my admission of guilt. He inquired further, asking the same question another way.

Please forgive me the indulgence of quoting myself.

“I take the health of my employees and those around us seriously. I and my employees take COVID seriously. I would be happy to review any recommendations that you may have for us, but I do not recognize the right of the government to tell me how I must run my own office space. Any government official wishing to enter the property must produce a warrant, otherwise they will not be permitted entry.

“Western Standard employees are free men and free women, and as such, I trust them to make responsible decisions about their own risk tolerances. Any Western Standard employee that feels that they would be unsafe in the office has only to inform me and we will make reasonable accommodations.”

The AHS employee was a perfect gentleman and handled himself well. He was just a little taken aback at my answer.

We also discussed the Alberta vaccine passport orders, and the Calgary mayor and city council’s decision to ban non-vaxport compliant “non-essential businesses.”

My response again was simple.

“Media is an essential service and I do not recognize the right of the government to decided if we are essential or not.”

The AHS employee responded: “Some of these [regulations] are good, and some of these are, you know…”

Fair enough.

So AHS is investigating to see if we are deserving of a visit from them and the police or not. We’ll see what comes of it.

One way or another, our policy will not change:

  • Employees are free to make their own choices about their personal enforcement of restrictions;
  • Employees may work from home if they feel that they are at unreasonable risk;
  • Employees must work from home if they are sick or anyone they are in close contact with contracts COVID-19;
  • And, employees are encouraged, but free to make their own informed choices about vaccines.

I suspect that the complaint came from a crank on Twitter that’s upset with my not-so-secret policies as it concerns compliance with government orders.

We take COVID-19 seriously. This isn’t some made-up conspiracy of a mysterious cabal in a dark and smokey room. I personally trust my doctor’s advise on COVID-19 vaccination, and got my jab as soon as I possibly could. I have always encouraged an open dialogue about vaccines with those in my social and professional circles, encouraging it, but never, ever demanding or requiring it.

Alberta’s ICUs are facing incredible pressure right now and necessary “elective surgeries” are being postponed. This is driven by the fact that Alberta’s government has not built up the necessary ICU capacity — despite having one of the most expensive health care systems on the planet — and 19 months since COVID-19 landed to do it. Lockdowns and vaxports will not solve this problem.

COVID-19 will continue to mutate and evade efforts to eradicate it. Alas, it may be with us for a long, long time. Even locked-down island nations like Australia cannot eradicate it, despite turning that once-free country into a veritable police state.

Despite my hopes the vaccines would eliminate it, COVID-19 isn’t going away anytime soon. There appears to be no way around the fact that COVID-19 is going to tear its way through the population until it burns itself out. The cost is, and will be, terrible. But there appears to be no way to stop it, even with a never-ending cycle of lockdowns, and the positive effects of vaccines.

All we can do is build our health care capacity to deal with predictable surges, as the fourth wave was, protect those who are genuinely vulnerable, and make the best of a bad situation.

And as we struggle through this, we cannot lose what is most important in life. We cannot surrender our long-fought freedoms for short-term security. We cannot take away the best years of our children’s lives. We cannot forbid loved ones from mourning their dead at funerals. We cannot outlaw family and friends from gathering for weddings. We cannot forcibly segregate people from these events because of their private medical decisions, even if we disagree with them.

Which brings me back to AHS’s investigation of the Western Standard. I care more about our employees than any government official will. We will be responsible and take necessary precautions, but as we see fit as free men and free women capable of making our own decisions.

Any government official who thinks otherwise had better get a warrant.

Derek Fildebrandt is Publisher of the Western Standard

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Petition: No Media Bailouts

We the undersigned call on the Canadian government to immediately cease all payouts to media companies.

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No Media Bailouts

The fourth estate is critical to a functioning democracy in holding the government to account. An objective media can't maintain editorial integrity when it accepts money from a government we expect it to be critical of.

We the undersigned call on the Canadian government to immediately cease all payouts to media companies.

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