As small businesses continue to grapple with the loss of income and the possibility of closing for good due to being deemed non-essential during COVID-19 lockdowns, hundreds of businesses have joined a push to take a stand against such measures under the banner of “we are all essential.”
“The government has no right to identify one group of people or one group of businesses or one group of religious establishments essential and non-essential,” said Vladislav Sobolev, founder of We Are All Essential, an initiative that supports the rights of small businesses, in a Feb. 1 Facebook video.
Sobolev told The Epoch Times that close to 500 small businesses across Canada are planning to reopen on Feb. 11 due to a campaign he organized called “Together We Can End The Lockdowns.”
The campaign urges small business owners to come together and make a stand to “prevent the loss of 222,000 small businesses and 3 million jobs while putting an end to countless lockdown casualties.”
More than 200 small businesses are currently listed on the website, but more will be added once the newly joined members finish updating their online profiles, Sobolev said.
“The website is designed to be like a Yelp directory for people to come and search for businesses … that are choosing to be open and serving their clients,” he explained.
One of the listed businesses includes Adamson Barbecue in Toronto, whose owner Adam Skelly was arrested and charged with violating Ontario’s lockdown measures when he briefly opened his restaurant in November.
“Most of the businesses that are forced to shut down [are] basically either zero transmission or very, very minute transmission numbers that actually come from places like gyms, restaurants, etc.,” Sobolev said in the video.
“They’re forced to be shut down, where you have Walmart, Costco, Amazon, where actually documented transmission takes place, however they can continue to operate.”
Sobolev, who used to work as a bartender and server at restaurants such as Mark McEwan’s and Sassafraz, told The Epoch Times that small business owners do not necessarily want to disobey any rules, but they need to open up because they can’t survive otherwise.
“Even if businesses are allowed to open with restrictions, they are still going to be [struggling]. … And again, most businesses are not even allowed to operate at all,” he said, noting that government aid programs aren’t sufficient to pay off these businesses’ expenditures.
In January, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimated that 239,000 small businesses across the country could permanently close because of virus-related measures. That translates to more than 2.4 million Canadians possibly losing their jobs in the private sector.
Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey released Feb. 5 reports that 213,000 jobs were lost in January—primarily in the retail sectors in Quebec and Ontario, where retailers are either limited to curbside pick-up or allowed to open with a restricted number of customers in-store.
“When you put them in a position where they have nothing to lose, people will do whatever it takes to survive,” Sobolev said.
“They are regular, law-abiding Canadian citizens—they have young families, young children, mortgages etc.—so they don’t want to necessarily do this but they have to, to survive.”
Currently working in the wellness, fitness, and life-coaching sector, Sobolev said he started protesting against the lockdowns in May 2020, and shortly after initiated his Hugs Over Masks movement.
“But they are independent in their own way,” he said of the two initiatives. “Hugs Over Masks is all about empowering individuals and connecting local support communities for families and people, and We Are All Essential is specifically designed to empower business owners as well as the faith establishments.”
Sobolev said lockdowns are not justified as they’re based on modelling by professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London that have since been proven flawed, including by experts with the World Doctors Alliance (WDA).
WDA is an non-profit alliance of doctors, nurses, health-care professionals, and staff around the world who have united with a view to “ending all lockdowns and related damaging measures and to re-establish universal health determinance of psychological and physical wellbeing for all humanity.”
According to the WDA, Ferguson’s modelling estimated there would be half a million deaths in the UK due to COVID-19, but that was proven wrong by a factor of 10 or 12 times. Data scientist/computational epidemiologist Chris von Csefalvay has also found numerous problems with Ferguson’s model, including that it was 13 years old and was written to model an influenza pandemic.
The WDA noted that the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths have occurred in elderly people and people with such pre-existing illnesses as cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. For those under 45 years old, COVID-19 poses virtually zero risk, and a very small risk to healthy individuals under 60, the alliance said.
Asked what the business owners who decide to reopen on Feb. 11 should do if they are issued fines or ordered to shut down, Sobolev said he had advised them to “take a ticket and then file it to court.”
“We have a partnership with different organizations who provide legal assistance” to help business owners fight the fines in court, he said. One is the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, an organization that seeks to defend the constitutional freedoms of Canadians through litigation and education.
But Sobolev’s concerns go beyond the lockdowns. Having immigrated to Canada from Russia 21 years ago, he fears current trends seem to be heading toward how things were in the Soviet Union under communism.
“We had no freedom of movement. You could not leave your country if you wanted to. You were restricted in terms of what you were allowed to buy. That’s what’s happening right now in Canada and it’s extremely alarming,” he said.
“I’m a parent. I have a four-year-old son and I have another baby on the way. So what I’m doing is actually for the children and the next generations in this country.”