The Vancouver Canucks have parted company with the team’s anthem singer, Mark Donnelly, after he confirmed he will sing ‘O Canada’ this weekend at a downtown Vancouver rally to protest COVID-19 restrictions.
B.C. Christmas Freedom Rally 2020 is set to take place Saturday afternoon outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, the site of multiple anti-mask rallies held throughout the pandemic, often drawing an assortment of anti-mask and anti-vaccine advocates, conspiracy theorists and other far-right figures.
Shortly after Donnelly confirmed his plans, team owner Franceso Aquilini tweeted: “Hey @VancouverSun change the headline to ‘Former Canucks anthem singer.’ #wearamask.”
Aquilini did not elaborate, but team officials confirmed the owner’s decision.
— Francesco Aquilini (@fr_aquilini) December 5, 2020
This particular rally, which includes a march at 1:30 p.m. and an onstage singalong to close the event, is seasonally inspired. An event poster shared on Facebook by organizer Ryan Kulbaba declares: “We oppose government orders and will gather for the holidays!”
British Columbians remain under stay-at-home orders and a mask mandate. Residents have been instructed to avoid social gatherings of all kinds and sizes as health officials work to suppress the second wave of COVID-19.
Kulbaba has been involved in several protests against COVID-19 restrictions. At an anti-mask demonstration in November, Kulbaba urged attendees to shop without masks and film their interactions with store managers.
The Surrey resident was also the lead organizer behind the B.C. Freedom Mega Rally, a two-day event outside the art gallery in October.
Kulbaba’s latest event drew a headliner. Donnelly, likely the city’s most recognizable anthem performer, will be singing ‘O Canada’ at noon and performing again just before 4 p.m., according to the rally’s itinerary.
Donnelly confirmed to Postmedia that he will sing at the controversial event.
“I sing ‘O Canada’ as a sign of unity and strength for all Canadians,” he said. “The true north strong and free.”
The Vancouver Canucks organization distanced itself from the anthem singer in a statement released Friday afternoon.
“Mark Donnelly is acting independently and we hope the public understands he is not representing the Vancouver Canucks,” said COO Trent Carroll. “We encourage everyone to wear a mask and to follow the provincial health orders.”