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AB MLA “People are coming together in peaceful rallies, peaceful protests, and I don't condemn them.

MLA for Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock Glenn van Dijken has expressed his sympathies to the protestors calling for an end to COVID restrictions in Westlock and Barrhead over the last few weeks.

Most recently, nearly 80 people attended the February 18th rally in Barrhead, led by organizer Benita Pedersen, who has in turn criticized van Dijken for not attending the ralleis himself. She was fined $1,200.

“People are coming together in peaceful rallies, peaceful protests, and I don't condemn them for doing that. I think it's a healthy part of our democracy for people to be able to speak up and speak their opinions. And then challenge the decisions that are being made,” van Dijken said Saturday. “There's no easy choices and no perfect solutions, just difficult decisions in uncharted waters.”

Although van Dijken states that he "doesn’t necessarily agree everything protestors are saying," he did concede that most cases are in urban centers and that restrictions could be regionalized in contrast to the current approach. However, he remained firm in his assertion that the government is not lying about the severity of the virus.

“I don't necessarily understand why people believe that the government is lying to them. There’s a lot of information with regards to the implications that we're experiencing in Alberta. There's no secret over 1,800 people have died from this now. I will give them that it’s tending to affect the more elderly, for sure, but we also remember that people are in the hospital, and the average age of people that have been in ICU is 59 … The disease is real.”

Although van Dijken admits he will not be attending future rallies, he conceded that he shares in his riding's frustrations and that life will return to normal upon the vaccine rollout, even if not all are vaccinated.

“The goal is not zero at the end of the day. We all have to take our precautions, but we do have to continue on with life,” he said. “The goal is to be able to have a health system that is there to treat all patients, not just COVID patients, but all that come through the door."

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