Skip to content

Hugs Over Masks supporters hope people will 'hear a different point of view'

'I’m not anti-mask, because the masks are simply symbolic,' says rally organizer

They say they aren't anti-mask, but rather don't want to be told what to do.  

A rally today at Barrie City Hall was directed at the provincial government’s COVID-19 restrictions and mask mandate, and how that affects small businesses.

Hugs Over Masks supporters describes themselves as a group people “formed from the need to work together in pursuit of restoring our civil liberties, democracy and way of life during these unprecedented times.”

Approximately 30 people met up at city hall at noon, Wednesday, to voice their concerns about the mask policy the government has imposed on all indoor facilities in the province.

Nick Robinson’s Spin City Roller Rink never opened up for their 2020 season because of COVID-19 and the fact they were in a government-run building.

As one of the organizers of today’s event, Robinson says he put the local event together out of fear of losing more small businesses to restrictions in place because of the virus. 

“I rented the Stroud Arena, a government building, to operate my events. It allowed me to build my customer base and save on overhead before I move into my own facility one day, if business ever gets back to being good,” Robinson said.

“If I had my own business, I would have opened up and defied the whole order because these restrictions are just destroying our small businesses," he added.

Robinson says he didn't want the group to be confused as those who discriminate against people who wear masks, and had hoped to see some people today who had masks on.

“I’m not anti-mask, because the masks are simply symbolic. Masks are just a step in a series of events that transpired and are a visual display of people’s acceptance of our government’s mandates and restrictions,” he said. “I want people who wear masks to come today, they will not be bullied by us, we are accepting. I hope they’re here so as to hear a different point of view.”

Robinson says he tries to avoid establishments that force the mask mandate and wasn’t concerned by any possible bylaw enforcement today.  

“I avoid any stores that force the mandate. What people are forgetting is this is the small print about exemptions to the mask rule,” he said. “This is not a law, it is a bylaw. You will not get arrested for not wearing a mask, but you might get a ticket. Because of the erroneous reasons for passing these things, it will get dropped in court anyway.”

Robinson continued by pointing out there were more than 25 people in the crowd at that point and if city's bylaw department “wants to give us tickets, that's fine it will get thrown out.”

BarrieToday reached out to city bylaw officials, but were unable to get a comment before publication.

Dan Oke is one of the leaders of the Hugs Over Masks organization, which spans North America, and was on-hand for the event in Barrie. Oke said he and those who attend the events are not rule-breakers, despite what some may think.

“We obey the law. In the GTA, under Section 2A of the bylaw, you have an exemption not only a medical, but also race, religion or creed. You're covered under the Ontario Charter of Rights. This is our creed, which is intentionally a broad term. This creed is our deep-seeded human belief,” said Oke.

“We are actually following the letter of the law," he added. 

Carol Highton had only heard of the event two days ago and wanted to hear what was being said.

“I actually wasn’t sure what to expect, but truthfully, there are some good points being made,” she said. “I’m still going to wear a mask, but I may not be so quick to judge about those who don’t want to.”


Verified reader

If you would like to apply to become a verified commenter, please fill out this form.

Shawn Gibson

About the Author: Shawn Gibson

Shawn Gibson is a staff writer based in Barrie
Read more