Anti-vax advocate attempts to follow Northeast Town mayor into his upstairs town office

Welcome Centre in Little Current. Photo by Warren Schlote

Vows to ‘follow you all day’

NORTHEAST TOWN – Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin found himself under duress by an anti-vaccination activist who accosted him on the street following the mayor’s interview by CTV’s Ian Campbell. The activist, along with a fellow traveller, took to the bullhorn in order to harass the vaccine centre located at the Little Current Welcome Centre later that same week.

“I was being interviewed by CTV News about the United Manitoulin Islands Transit extension of a route to Espanola and Sudbury when an individual apparently was standing behind me holding up some kind of newspaper,” recalled the mayor. “I couldn’t see him at first because he was behind me, but Ian Campbell told him that the camera was off, so he put the paper down.”

The individual, who may be familiar to Islanders from recent roadside protests against the COVID-19 vaccinations outside the Manitoulin Health Centre, then handed Mayor MacNevin the paper.

“I took his paper and he said to me ‘you will get more truth out of this than you will MCTV’,” recalled Mayor MacNevin. “I said ‘I rather doubt that.’ He didn’t seem to like that and then he went on to accuse me of saying I threatened to throw him under the bus. I told him I never said anything like that. I don’t know where he might have gotten that idea, except maybe that the interview was about the new bus route.”

The individual became more agitated at that point and told the mayor that because he had threatened to throw him under the bus, he was going to follow the mayor around all day. The individual then proceeded to follow Mayor MacNevin and fellow councillor Michael Erskine into the municipal building, up the stairs and attempted to enter the municipal offices. Councillor Erskine locked the individual out, but he remained calling out in the hallway.

“I told our CAO about the issue and he went and spoke to him in the hallway, instructing him to desist and to leave the building,” said the mayor. The individual agreed to desist and left the building.

“I have had interactions, phone calls, with this individual before and I would listen and tell him that we would have to agree to disagree and he would thank me for hearing him out,” said Mayor MacNevin. “This time was different. He seems to be escalating.”

Later that week, the same individual was at the Public Health Sudbury and Districts vaccination centre being held at the Little Current Welcome Centre, close to the swing bridge.

“He and a buddy were apparently accosting people going into the welcome centre and yelling at them with a loudspeaker,” said Mayor MacNevin.

The health unit staff called the town office about the incident, as well as 911. At first, police said they were unable to take action to prevent the protest.

Northeast Town CAO Dave Williamson then went up to the site and confronted the individuals, requesting that they leave the property. They refused to leave and became increasingly belligerent, according to Mr. Williamson’s report to council later that week.

“I informed the OPP that these people were trespassing,” said Mr. Williamson. “The police then instructed them to leave and they did.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Williamson reported, the duo then proceeded to continue to harangue the vaccination centre with their loudspeaker from the roadside.

“I don’t get it,” said Mayor MacNevin. “I get they don’t want the vaccine, but what are they doing yelling profanities at the people who do? It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

In his address to the Northeast Town council, Mayor MacNevin said that he is concerned about the increasing vitriol and agitation being expressed by the anti-vaccination activists. “It really seems to have ramped up quite a few notches over the past year,” he said. “I don’t like where this seems to be heading.”