Lone student protests mandates

Half a dozen other protesters join anti-mask effort

North Bay Nuggett | PJ Wilson | February 25, 2022

Culin Trahan just wants to get back to a normal school year.

The Grade 11 student at St. Joseph-Scollard Hall was one of a handful of protesters standing outside the school Friday afternoon, holding up a sign calling to “End the Mandates” as the global COVID-19 pandemic nears the two-year mark.

“We’ve been through this for two years,” Trahan said as the other protesters – seven adults – marched past on High Street, waving flags and acknowledging horns honking in support.

“The only regular year I’ve had in high school was in Grade 9,” Trahan said. “Ever since, we’ve been in lockdown.”

It’s been a disappointing time since then, he said. He was part of the school’s curling team in his Grade 9 year, but curling and most sports were cancelled or disrupted because of the pandemic.

“It got shut down,” he said.

And while he wants the mandates to end, he admits he understands why they were imposed earlier in the pandemic.

“The first few were really necessary, until we saw what we were dealing with,” he said. “But now, I think we can reopen.”

Parents and guardians of secondary school students around the city were advised by email Thursday of possible walkouts, but Trahan was the only student seen shortly after 2 p.m. There were no protests at Chippewa or West Ferris secondary schools or at Ecole Secondaire Catholique Algonquin.

But Trahan said he “knew of a few” other students at SJSH who had been talking about joining the protest, “but they were out of town today.”

What he wants, he said, is to get rid of the masks.

“Freedom,” he said. “I want to be able to choose what I put on my face.”

And while none of the staff at the school talked to him about the protest, “the teachers were super respectful and the principal was understanding.”

In the email to parents and guardians distributed Thursday, the Nipissing Parry Sound Catholic District School Board urged parents to “have a discussion about (the issue) with your child.

“While we respect the democratic process of safe and peaceful protests, our priority is the safety of our students. We will continue to work closely with our community partners and the North Bay Police to ensure our schools remain safe, inclusive places of learning.”

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