A Saskatchewan woman who started a grassroots organization to fight division and promote unity received a call from Premier Scott Moe after she released a video explaining the reasons she launched the movement. The call was also the trigger behind a series of exchanges between Moe and the leader of the opposition NDP, which ended with Moe saying the unvaccinated shouldn’t be stigmatized.
Nadine Ness, a former RCMP officer and mother of three whose husband is a physician, founded Unified Grassroots in September. The organization emerged as a counter-movement to some aspects of the pandemic response and has quickly swelled to 12,000 members.
“Our slogan is ‘We Stand For All,’ and what that means is we stand for all against division, hate, discrimination, coercion. We’re not an anti-vax group. We’re not an anti-mask group,” Ness said in the video, titled “Nadine Ness Has a Message for Scott Moe!”
“Our main goal is to fight the division and hate that’s spreading across the province.”
Ness told The Epoch Times that she finds her leadership role in the movement “fulfilling,” as she “can bring on healing” for those who previously felt voiceless.
“It is hard on some days, but it’s really rewarding,” she said.
“Before we started our group, so many of us felt so low. And we thought, ‘OK, we’re the only ones that are concerned about this stuff.’ Then [Unified Grassroots] grows so fast that makes you realize you’re not insane. There’s a lot of people that are worried as well. It’s just they haven’t had anywhere they can say it.”
Ness said in the video that she looked up the guiding principles of Moe’s Saskatchewan Party and “really, really liked” its calls for individual freedom and a less intrusive and more responsive government.
“I was like, ‘Yes, this is what I want.’ But then I realized that’s not what we’re getting. … I’m wondering if anyone at the Sask. Party has looked at those in the last two years,” she said.
“I don’t know of a time in my life where the government has been as intrusive as this government has been.”
The party’s principles also emphasize private sector economic growth, yet Ness says government responses to the pandemic have been bad for business.
“I have people calling me saying they’ve lost their business or they’re about to. … They’ve tried contacting the government, they tried contacting their MLAs, and it’s going on deaf ears,” she said.
“The ball’s in your court [Premier Moe]. I know for a fact the people of Saskatchewan are not OK with the direction this province is going. I think you’ve severely underestimated us. You’ve underestimated what the true heart of Saskatchewan is: true north strong and free.”
On Dec. 3, after the video had 20,000 views, Ness received a call from the premier.
“I’m going to give credit where it’s due,” she said in a subsequent video.
“We spoke for quite a long period of time. I’m surprised he didn’t brush me off, to be honest. It was a good, productive talk and I foresee there being more in the future.”
Moe’s call with Ness was criticized by NDP opposition leader Ryan Meili, who called Ness’s group “radical extremists.”
“A group that teamed up with [former Saskatchewan People’s Party of Canada candidate] Mark Friesen … to take this government to court and try to stop proof of vaccination—why does [Moe] have time for them but not for the people who have suffered from the consequences of his choices,” Meili said in the legislature on Dec. 7.
The group’s legal challenge against the proof of vaccination policy didn’t succeed.
Ness says Unified Grassroots isn’t opposed to vaccines, and many members of the group are vaccinated, but is opposed to vaccine mandates.
Moe criticized Meili for his comments, saying they create division.
“There are great divisions in our community, we see divisions in families, we see divisions between friends,” he said in the legislature. “I think what doesn’t help those divisions is when the leader of the opposition yet again goes out and labels people.”
Moe also said those who aren’t vaccinated shouldn’t be stigmatized.
‘Bring People Together’
In one of her videos, Ness criticized some legacy media suggestions that people should exclude unvaccinated relatives during the holiday season.
“There’s this big push that maybe you shouldn’t be inviting some of your family members over for Christmas, or maybe you should be telling them they’re unwelcome. I find that really concerning,” she said.
“I highly encourage, if you have alienated anyone from your family, maybe it’s a time to call and make amends and say ‘I’m sorry.’ If we don’t do something now, we’re going to look at ourselves in the mirror a year from now and not recognize who we’ve become.”
On Dec. 12, Unified Grassroots will be holding a food and winter clothing drive at a Saskatoon location with cheery Christmas music to set the atmosphere.
Ness, whose first language is French, worked as a federal civil servant in Calgary and Vancouver before moving to Saskatchewan, which she says she “fell in love with.” Now she lives on a farm near Langham, 35 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.
“I want to know when I leave this earth here that I left it in a better place than when I came here,” she said.
“I’d rather do something positive and bring people together.”