HUMBOLDT — Signs overlaid with no-mask slogans and several dozen attendees were present at the Humboldt Civic Park on Sunday, as a rally was held decrying the provincial government for their COVID-19 response.
Some of these signs included “unmask the children, oxygen is essential”, promoting the idea that cloth masks prevent oxygen intake.
Other signs simply read slogans like “device of mass control” or “save our children, no masks in schools.” At the front of the crowd, protestors held up a large white banner reading “freedom over fear” in red ink.
Some attendees brought children, which ran around the space without physical spacing or any kind of mask.
One attendee, RB Ham, travelled out from Saskatoon to attend the rally. He said travelling from the city wasn’t uncommon with the crowd’s attendants.
“We came out from Saskatoon, a lot of us, because this is a provincial rally today,” Ham said. “We invited everybody from the whole province to be here. We were hoping for 100, and it’s not a bad turnout and we hope it’s more.”
Ham called school policies requiring children to wear masks “a crime against humanity.”
“It’s psychologically damaging to be masking our kids because it’s not optional for the children,” he said.
“Even if it’s more dangerous than the seasonal flu by a little bit, which is what the stats are showing, it’s more deadly for people over 70. The average age of people dying are in their 80s. We got to keep our economy going for the sake of everybody.”
According to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, as of Oct. 18, Canada has a five per cent case-fatality rate with 197,067 cases and 9,782 deaths due to the virus.The United States has a 2.7 per cent case-fatality rate with 8,106,384 cases and 219,286 deaths due to the virus.
“Government isn’t always right and science isn’t always right, otherwise we would still be spraying DDT on our vegetables and giving thalidomide to pregnant ladies,” Ham said. “You have to look at the whole picture and there is an alternative story going on.”
A man some attendees pointed to as the organizer, Austin Rodgerson, refused to speak to the Humboldt Journal or give his name, stating “media is the problem.”
Ham rejected the claim that Rodgerson was in charge.
“He’s not in charge, nobody’s in charge. We’re just a bunch of guys, right? Nobody’s in charge,” Ham said.
Shortly after the rally, Ham, Rodgerson and others from the group went to Humboldt’s Terry’s No Frills without masks to show opposition to their store policy requiring masks to protect the other customers and staff.
A video from the incident shows an employee asking the group to leave and informing them that the RCMP had been called.
“I’m not forcing you to shop here, so you can go somewhere else that doesn’t need you to wear a facemask,” the employee said to one of the women.
“Too bad,” the woman replied, before being asked to leave again by the manager and employee.
“We are leaving because we are choosing to leave,” the woman added.
“Good,” replied both the employee and the manager in unison.
After being asked to leave about three more times, the woman complied.
Two police officers responded. The officers stood at the front of the store to prevent the group’s reentry.
“I’m from Saskatoon, but I’m willing to take a Humboldt business down,” Rodgerson told the officers, threatening to sue No Frills.
In an interview with the Humboldt Journal, Dr. Erika Penz, adult respirologist from the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine said there’s “no way” a mask could actually reduce significant oxygen molecules from reaching a person’s lungs or prevent carbon dioxide from being released.
“When we put on a mask, specifically perhaps it is a surgical mask, or perhaps it is a cloth mask, a mask basically acts as a light barrier around our nose and mouth, but allows for enough air in the atmosphere to get around that,” Penz said.
“When we’re breathing the air there’s nothing obstructing the oxygen molecules from number one, coming in from the side of the mask, and actually through the mask… That material is not strong enough to stop oxygen from filtering through it.”
While there is no evidence to show any physical harm caused by wearing a mask, Penz said it can make some people feel like they are being harmed.
“Some people might say to themselves and others, ‘I feel horrible when I wear a mask, I feel so panicked I feel like I’m going to die and that trauma causes me harm.’ I think that it’s well recognized that a very small minority of individuals do feel uncomfortable wearing a mask, and in fact it can trigger those types of emotions and panic in some individuals.”
Penz said these feelings can result in the individual breathing faster and feeling anxious.
“There are strategies to actually help people overcome those feelings by practicing wearing a mask, normalizing that feeling, trying to actually actively slow down their breathing,” she said. “So I want to recognize people can perceive and experience discomfort, but the actual term ‘harm from a mask’ has not been proven.”