The Vancouver Canucks have fired longtime anthem singer Mark Donnelly for performing at an anti-mask protest on Saturday.
Donnelly told the mostly unmasked crowd at the Christmas Freedom Rally he questioned the “draconian lockdown protocols” due to the coronavirus pandemic. By singing “O Canada,” he said he was standing against “tyranny, plain and simple.”
This weekend, Canada passed the grim milestone of more than 400,000 COVID-19 infections and 12,000 deaths, with overburdened hospitals in western provinces.
Canucks team owner Francesco Aquilini tweeted Friday that Donnelly was now the “former” anthem singer, following a Vancouver Sun story about Donnelly’s weekend plans.
The team’s COO Trent Carroll said in a statement Donnelly is acting independently and his views don’t reflect those of the Canucks.
“We encourage everyone to wear a mask and to follow the provincial health orders,” said Carroll.
Donnelly said at the rally he hasn’t had direct contact with Aquilini or the Canucks.
Watch: Saskatoon man uses cold air to demonstrate mask effectiveness. Story continues below.
The event saw a couple dozen participants. Some were holding signs with messages against vaccines and lockdowns, as well as banners supporting U.S. President Donald Trump. Most weren’t physically distancing.
B.C.’s health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has denounced people who refuse to wear masks during the novel coronavirus pandemic because of what they say is an infringement on their rights.
“I have no time for people who believe that wearing a mask somehow makes them ill or is a sign of lack of freedom,” Henry said at a news conference in November.
“To me, it’s about respect for our fellow people who are suffering through this, with us and making sure we’re doing our piece in solidarity to get us through this really challenging time.”
She called on all Canadians to be mindful, compassionate and respectful of one another by wearing masks and following physical distancing protocols.
Donnelly had been affiliated with the Vancouver Canucks since 2001.
At the rally, he made several false claims, including that health officials misled the public by initially saying measures would be in place for only a short time but have turned into a “10-month marathon from hell.”
B.C. Finance Minister Carole Hames publicly said at the beginning of the pandemic, on March 17, that it would be “a marathon, not a sprint.”
Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, made a similar comment a month later.
Health-care workers have taken to social media in recent weeks to speak out against the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories as COVID-19 cases surge.
“I have been absolutely disgusted by the comments made by fellow Albertans on Facebook posts and news articles,” posted Courtney Jewell, a nurse, to Facebook Nov. 23.
“These awful people, hiding behind their computers, are accusing nurses and doctors and data analysts of inflating the numbers, lying about the overwhelmed state of our hospitals, trying to fear monger or even trying to take advantage of all the overtime pay … We will treat you with respect and dignity and compassion, because that is what we do. No matter what you have said, what you have done, we will care for you.”
During the pandemic, the Canucks have encouraged fans to take seriously the public-health measures meant to limit the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing masks and avoiding social gatherings.