News of an anti-mask, anti-lockdown protest in Barry’s Bay erupted on local social media accounts on Sunday February 7 at a time when residents were still under a provincewide stay-at-home order. One of the original Facebook posts (now deleted) reported that the maskless demonstrators were inviting passersby to hug them. Other commenters pointed out they did not all maintain the requisite physical distancing. After reading the comments local realtor Pat Scott drove into town to see for herself. She had been told that a number of Seat of Wisdom College (SWC) students were at the rally waving placards and bothering people walking. She herself recognized some as being SWC students and captured photos of the gathering on her phone.
She then contacted SWC Acting President Dr. Christine Schintgen offering to share the photos with her and asking for comment from the College about the event. Schintgen replied promptly, thanking Scott and saying, “At Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College we do our best to enforce all the COVID-19 protocols on campus. We also strongly encourage our students to obey all civil laws and protocols while off-campus. However, our students are adults and we cannot take responsibility for their choices and actions off campus. That is up to the civil authorities. I have no problem with you sharing your photos with the media.”
Valley resident Maureen MacMillan told The Current she happened to be shopping at the Barry’s Bay Metro and her interest was piqued by a bunch of teenagers walking by the store with signs. She later saw up to about 15 people at the three-way stop holding placards with anti-lockdown/anti-mask sentiments. She said, “It got me a bit riled up to see this in our small town. We have been so lucky to not have COVID cases here and many of us don’t know anyone personally who has died so it’s easy to get tired, frustrated and complacent. That being said, the beauty of our small towns are that we look out for each other to ensure we have each other’s backs. The lockdown AND mask wearing are for the common good. I’m sure the one thing we can agree on is that we are universally tired of this pandemic, but we don’t need this kind of divisive sentiment in our small town.”
When contacted by The Current, Renfrew County and District Health Unit, OPP Killaloe Detachment and the Township of Madawaska Valley all confirmed that they had not received advance notice of the event. At the time of publication, The Current has not received any indication of what, if any, steps are being taken by the appropriate authorities.
Editor’s note: The Current is grateful to multiple sources who have submitted photos and contributed to this report.
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