Here's what you need to know about the Hugs Over Masks groups in Canada
By now, everyone has probably heard of the massive Hugs Over Masks group in Canada, however, not everyone knows of the group's origins.
While it's safe to say that we've all come across videos of people losing it for having to wear a mask due to the spread of COVID-19, each individual is not necessarily affiliated with this organized group.
Hugs Over Masks leads protests against mandatory face coverings in Canada and describe themselves as "a community of concerned independent and non-partisan individuals, families, and businesses that formed from the need to work together in pursuit of restoring our civil liberties, democracy, and way of life during these unprecedented times."
The group has many leaders, some of which act in an official capacity. Vladislav Sobolev, the anti-mask group's founder, for instance, is an event organizer, media moderator, and speaker at events known as "Coach Vlad."
Very inspiring speech (11 min.) at Parliament Hill Protest by Founder of Hugs for Life Vladislav Sobolev.https://t.co/GzDDgxkCBl— Linnie Rants (@LinnieRants) September 1, 2020
Hugs Over Masks are affiliated with one of the country's largest anti-vaccine organizations, Vaccine Choice Canada. A look at the anti-vaccine group's social media shows their opposition to a COVID-19 vaccine as well as masks and social distancing.
Sobolev even told CBC that Sherri Tenpenny, a U.S. anti-vaccination advocate, is providing online training to his group.
#FreedomRally #ParliamentHill OTTAWA Giving interview on Friday, Rally on Saturday & #OttawaFOL #FestivalOfLife on Sunday - Thank You for All #Synchronicities of #OneLIFE & All Beautiful People who has joined on this new branch on this #TreeOfLife #HumanityWillPrevail #LoveOverFear #FactsOverFear #HugsOverMasks 💚🙏
In fact, according to a writer who joined the Hugs Over Masks Facebook group, people must answer a series of questions to be accepted and one of those questions is whether you believe vaccines should be mandatory.
While it's unclear just how many members Hugs Over Masks has, their Facebook page is currently at 2,762 likes and their Twitter account, which says they are "exposing the hypocrises of COVID-19" has 737 followers. Their Instagram account has raked in even more followers at 3,346.
The group has held rallies and protests in multiple cities across the country including Toronto, Kitchener, Ottawa, and Surrey.
They currently have events planned for the following cities:
The group also have upcoming events in U.S. cities like Toledo, Dallas, and more.
While the group is not technically aligned with any political parties, and their founder has insisted they are not a political movement, many consider them to be right-leaning.
In fact, many posts in Hugs Over Masks group have compared any inconvenience related to wearing a face covering to the Holocaust.
On the group's website, people can also download and print off fake mask exemption cards that state the holder falls into categories of people who are exempt from wearing a mask.
These cards have been handed out at the group's rallies.