Photos of anti-vaccine-mandate signs draped over the Terry Fox statue near Parliament Hill during a large protest against pandemic restrictions on Saturday sparked widespread condemnation.
Many Canadians, including doctors, scientists and cancer survivors, expressed shock at the images, which spread widely on social media. Some of the photos showed an upside-down Canadian flag flying from a pole wedged in the statue’s arms.
“As with many people, I was pretty disappointed to see the statue modified like that for this cause, or really any cause,” said Vicky Forester, a cancer researcher and survivor.
Dr. Forester took the opportunity to encourage her social media followers to make online donations to the Terry Fox Foundation, which raises money for cancer research. Mr. Fox, who lost a leg to cancer, died of complications from the disease in 1981 after his worsening health condition forced him to abandon a historic cross-Canada run that raised millions of dollars for the same cause.
“Myself and many others thought: Can we turn this into something positive, and turn disappointment into a very good day for what he wanted, which is cancer research?” Dr. Forester said.
She added that her Twitter has been inundated with messages from people who donated on Saturday after she and other doctors posted their outrage.
Thousands of people gathered in downtown Ottawa on Saturday after truckers and other drivers travelled in a convoy to the capital city to protest vaccine mandates. The use of Mr. Fox’s statue as a prop was one of several actions from some protesters that outraged observers. Other protesters displayed swastikas, and some parked their vehicles at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson expressed his disappointment with protesters’ use of Mr. Fox’s statue.
“This is completely unacceptable and I have asked city bylaw to have the placard and upside down Canadian flag taken down,” Mr. Watson said on Twitter. Earlier in the day, he had also directed authorities to remove cars parked at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“This kind of stunt by protesters does not help their cause,” he added.
More protest signs were placed on the statue after the flag and a first sign were taken away.
This is completely unacceptable and I have asked city bylaw to have the placard and upside down Canadian flag taken down. This kind of stunt by protesters does not help their cause— Jim Watson (@JimWatsonOttawa) January 29, 2022
Brad West, mayor of Port Coquitlam, B.C., Mr. Fox’s hometown, said the renowned cancer activist was a unifier and that the protest materials should be removed immediately.
“Whatever your cause, you don’t get to appropriate his legacy and you don’t touch his statue. Ever. This should be removed immediately,” Mr. West said in a tweet.
In a statement, the Terry Fox Foundation said it is grateful for its supporters.
“The Terry Fox Foundation is proud to continue Terry’s mission of funding cancer research,” the organization said. “Terry believed in science and gave his life to help others. We are grateful for our supporters who help us work toward realizing Terry’s dream of a world without cancer.”
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