Parents, grandparents, and children filled the front lawn of the Hanover School Division head office Monday afternoon to protest mask and vaccine mandates.
With the start of the school year right around the corner, the Province of Manitoba says most students will be required to wear masks and all staff will be required to either be fully vaccinated or take regular COVID-19 tests.
Attendees arrived at 1 p.m., listened to speeches, participated in an open mic session, and even sang along during a portion specifically for the children.
"I am at the Hanover School Division to thank our teachers for fighting for our kids, to stand up for them, but also to stand up for my kids so that they won't have to wear masks," Jess Reimer, one of the people in attendance, says. "I have a son who doesn't do well with masks and I don't think it should be something that is mandated. It should be my choice as his parent to choose and it shouldn't be up to the government."
Reimer says she feels the event was exactly what she was hoping for.
"Super peaceful, it has been uplifting. We prayed at the beginning of it and it has been a unifying experience, it has been really good."
Robin Wiebe was more focused on vaccine mandates for all school staff.
"I want to stand up and support my friends who are teachers and EA's and everyone else who is in the school system and our kids especially who need to have the freedom of choice to choose what is best for their body and their family."
Many of the people in attendance brought homemade signs with anti-mask or anti-vaccine slogans.
Fraser Isaac attended the rally and says he was amazed at how many people showed up.
"I am here because when it comes to masks and vaccines, I am pro-choice. I think that for Canada to be free, we need to allow people to make the decision themselves, that is why I am here today."
Similarly, Bea Funk says she has five kids and she wants to defend their freedom. She notes she believes this rally can effect change.
"If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be here. I just want to stand up for the people who might be too scared to stand up and for the people who feel scared and alone and I hope this will make a difference."
Chantelle Wieler says she too hopes this rally will change minds and have an effect on the restrictions for the start of the school year.
"I can always hope, I can always hope that showing up here and saying something, coming here in togetherness can show that there are more than a few of us that don't like the way things are."
Further protests are already being planned in Steinbach.
The Hanover School Division itself did not make any of these mask or vaccine mandates. They are following the back-to-school plan set out by the Province of Manitoba. The first day of class is September 8.
Written by Kenton Dyck