Protestors Gather in Campbellford, Brighton and Colborne

Cobourg-based anti-lockdown group says government has over-reacted to COVID-19

Article and images by John Campbell

(Above photo: Northumberland Rise Up members in Campbellford Feb 21)

Joshua Clausen, co-founder of Northumberland Rise Up (NRU), said his group went “on the move” on the weekend to let people throughout the county know that “they’re not alone in their thoughts and their frustration with the lockdown measures.” Those measures have resulted in seniors “dying alone (in) isolation, being separated from their families,” and family members living in “abusive situations” who “have no escape.” There have also been increases in suicides and opioid overdoses, and “a lot of kids are struggling” with at-home schooling, he added. Had the government been quicker to close the border and taken “a harder approach in the initial stage” to curb the spread of infections, there would have been “a better outcome” and we’d be “in a much different situation,” Clausen said.

More than 845,650 cases of COVID-19 have been reported as of Sunday, February 21, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada; the number of deaths exceeds 21,670.

Clausen, a Cobourg-area chef, was laid off for three months last year, and “it impacted me greatly.” He and Todd Noel formed NRU after the lockdown went into effect. “We’re not troublemakers. We’re just concerned Canadians that just want to get our lives back, that’s all.”

The group has “several hundred” online members from across Northumberland, and “25 or so” of them meet every Saturday afternoon in front of Victoria Hall in Cobourg to make their voices heard, Clausen said. They’re from all walks of life, “everybody from farmers to real estate,” Noel said.

“This is our first mobile protest locally,” Clausen said. The group has also taken part in protests in Toronto and Ottawa.

“We get a very positive response from the majority of people. For every one person that says that we’re crazy we have at least 10 people telling us they support us.”Noel, a marine mechanic, said “a large segment of the population” believes “the lockdown is wrong” and that it needs to end because of the harm it’s doing. “More people will die from a destroyed economy than this virus will ever kill,” he asserted.

The lockdown is “a massive power grab” by the government, which it’s using “as an excuse to take our freedoms.”

Joshua Clausen, on the right, & other members of Northumberland Rise Up in Campbellford.

Asked what the government should have done to keep the coronavirus in check, Noel replied: “That’s a great question. Actually I have to say it’s probably up to more important people to make that decision than me but … it’s time to get back to normal,” and put an end to the lockdown, he insisted. “It’s definitely been a wake-up call for long-term care facilities but for the majority of people under the age of 70 the chances of getting this virus and dying is very slim.”

Asked if the nation could survive the pandemic without putting limits on human activity and making vaccines available, Clausen said he didn’t know, “that’s to be determined. But I still think the lockdown measures are not improving anything and we got to get back to (regular) lives. People need to feel human again.”

None of the protesters wore masks. “I have a medical condition, I can’t wear a mask,” Clausen said. He tried in the beginning but found it “detrimental” to his health and those around him. He has a medical exemption and advocates for others who have one as well but “are afraid to speak up for themselves.” He’s not opposed to people wearing masks “if it gives them that sense of security,” or getting vaccinated, “but I’m not okay with the government telling us that we have to take this, and we have to do that.”

So far more than 420,250 Canadians have been fully vaccinated (received two doses).

Neither man plans to get vaccinated, offering strong opinions as to why they won’t. Clausen said there have been “no long-term trials” done to determine “the effects on those who are taking it … (and) the next generation.”Noel said all vaccines contain “poisons” and those developed for COVID-19 are “DNA-altering.” Everyday life presents risks, he said. “People are going to get sick. Give me dangerous freedom … I don’t want the nanny state. I don’t need the government telling me how to live (and) what I need to do every day.”

The two vaccines approved for use in Canada, manufactured by Moderna and Pfizer, are mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) vaccines which, in the words of Health Canada, “teach our cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response without using the live virus that causes COVID-19. Once triggered, our body then makes antibodies (which) help us fight the infection if the real virus does enter our body in the future.”

The federal institution said it had “conducted a rigorous scientific review of the available medical evidence to assess the safety” of the two vaccines and no major safety concerns were identified in the data it reviewed.

It “will monitor for any adverse events that may develop after immunization.” To learn more about the vaccines, visit www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19/vaccines.html